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What is a Literary Agent?
by Tina Morgan
In a past issue of Fiction Factor, we brought you news of a literary scam being operated by the NWG. We told you how they charged hopeful authors an inordinate amount of money and promised them agent representation. This past month has also seen the demise of an Arkansas literary agency that charged exorbitant editing fees and the sentencing of another unscrupulous vanity press mogul.
In light of these developments, one might think that we are weeding out the sharks in the publishing waters. However, as soon as one scam artist is gone another pops up to take their place. Sometimes it's the same person under another name. There will always be unscrupulous people waiting to feed off your publishing dreams.
So with all the dangers out there, how do you protect yourself?
* Learn What a Literary Agent Is and If You Really Need One *
So just what does a literary agent do and why do they do it? They act as middlemen for the publishing world. They sift through the slush pile to offer the best and brightest to the attention of the publishers.
They work on a commission like the majority of salespersons on the planet. They don't make money unless they sell books. Which essentially means, they MUST work in your best interests, or the reputable ones won't be paid.
* Do Agents Charge For Editing? *
No. While some agents might make a few editing suggestions to try and to help sell your book, they are not in the business of editing novels. They do not charge you for the suggestions they make and they do not refer you to specific editing agencies.
It could be that your work is close to being publishable and an agent might feel that you would benefit from having the book edited. In that case they will simply recommend that you have the book looked at. Beware of agents that send you to specific editing agencies and book-doctors. Often these agencies are receiving a kick back from the service.
* How Does An Agent Work? *
Besides spending their time talking to new and established clients, they also spend time talking to editors at the major (and sometimes minor) publishing houses to maintain contact and develop a good working relationship with the people responsible for buying your book.
A good agent is familiar with all the legal issues concerning your contract. They know the ins and outs of the business and how best to sell the rights to your story. They know which rights should remain with the author, and which ones they can bargain for at a later date.
An agent has experience negotiating contracts and can often obtain a higher advance than authors can for themselves.
* How do You Find an Agent? *
The advertisements in the writing magazines are not the place to start looking. Good agents are turning writers away, they are not out recruiting them. While being a member of the AAR does not guarantee an agent is good, their canon of ethics does demand that agents don't charge reading fees.
Other sites to visit are: Preditors and Editors with their extensive listing of agents and publishing companies and Victoria Straus's "Writer Beware" (Victoria is very helpful and quick to answer questions).
Another place to research an agents reputation would be with the Speculations Rumor Mill. They report on literary scams and are very good about providing fast and accurate information.
Please visit the following pages for more information.
* Association of Authors' Representatives
* Preditors and Editors
And remember: Money flows to the author - never the other way around
© Copyright 2001 Tina Morgan.
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