How does a literary agent work? I’ve broken the entire process down into seven simple parts (just scroll below to see it). Book agents at every level follow these same steps, whether they’re old pros or brand new to the business. This article is part of a 9-part series in our Insider Guide to Literary Agents.
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How Does a Literary Agent Work with Authors?
The process of getting a book agent isn’t complicated. Once you’ve compiled a list of prospective agents that you believe would be a good fit for you, this seven-step process is what you can expect.
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Step 1: How Does a Literary Agent Work?
Review Your Query Letter
To get an agent you need a 1-2 page query letter asking permission to send a book proposal, sample chapters, and/or a complete manuscript. If the agent isn’t interested, you won’t get a response (or you’ll get a rejection letter). If the agent is interested, you’ll then send more material (see below).
Step 2: How Does a Literary Agent Work?
Request Additional Material
If an agent likes your query and you write fiction, you’ll then send sample chapter or the full novel. For nonfiction, you’ll send the complete manuscript or a book proposal and sample chapters. If the agent isn’t interested, you’ll get a rejection letter. If the agent is interested, see below.
Step 3: How Does a Literary Agent Work?
Discuss the Possibility of Representation
If an agent is thinking about representing you, you’ll be contacted by phone, email, or mail with questions about your book and “author platform” (informal “interview”). The agent will try to figure out if the two of you are a good fit to work together. Of course, you can ask the agent questions as well.
Step 4: How Does a Literary Agent Work?
Send You an Author/Agent Agreement
If your interview goes well you’ll get an author/agent agreement, though some agents only offer verbal agreements. Contracts are 1-4 pages and list things like the book title(s), contract length, agent commission, etc. You’ll discuss any needed changes with your agent, then sign the contract.
Step 5: How Does a Literary Agent Work?
Develop Your Book
After you sign the agreement, your agent will suggest ways to improve your manuscript and/or book proposal. This process will take anywhere from several weeks to many months, depending on how much work your material needs… and how much support your agent is willing to provide.
Step 6: How Does a Literary Agent Work?
Submit Your Book to Publishers
Your agent will submit your work to publishers until you get a deal (or your agent decides that you won’t be able to). If your agent gets offers, you’ll then get guidance to help you choose the best offer. Then your agent will finalize the terms of your contract for you and send it to you for signing.
Step 7: How Does a Literary Agent Work?
Guide You Through the Publication Process
After you sign your book contract, your agent will offer support through every phase of the publication process including editing, galley proofs, cover design, production, distribution, sales, marketing, publicity, licensing, and dealing with any legal issues that might come up.
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Conclusion – How Does a Literary Agent Work?
The amount of communication that book agents have with their authors varies greatly. Your agent might talk to you every few weeks, every few months, or only when he feels there is something to talk about.
Same thing goes for your agent’s preferred method of communication. Some agents like to do everything by phone, while others prefer email. And I can almost guarantee you that your agent isn’t going to want to meet you face-to-face (even if you live just down the street) unless he gets you a huge book deal and you have a reason to celebrate.
Now, click here to read the next article in this 9-part series and
answer the question: How Is a Literary Agent Paid?
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