Literary agents represent your work to publishers. They have established relationships with editors within publishing houses and can find the best fit for your work. They also look after negotiations with contract details and can provide representation if any part of your book is illegally reproduced.
Reputable agents will be up to date on current publishing trends and can give authors expert advice on market changes and shifting trends. An agent also serves as an expert in market sales, so they will help ensure your book gets a good cover design, and more attention from the publisher’s publicity department.
Agents track payments to see that the author is paid, and paid on schedule by the publisher. An agent is paid only when the writer is paid – so you can bet they will have accurate records of all payments. Having an agent look after this detail is a real advantage as it puts a distance between a writer and any conflict they might have regarding payments.
Many authors publish their work without agent representation, but of course the authors themselves would then be responsible for finding a publisher and securing a book deal.
Getting yourself a literary agent can be as frustrating as getting your book published. There are approximately 30 literary agents in Canada, most of which only accept a few clients a year. Referrals by people who work in the publishing industry or are on that particular agent’s client list increase chances of keeping your query out of the slush pile.
Many agents only accept query letters and not unsolicited manuscripts. Be sure to review all submission guidelines on the agent’s website before submitting your manuscript. Take note of any submission requirements and areas of interest or specialization.Some agents may allow a partial submission along with your query.
Polish and perfect your query letter and submission with as much care as you have invested in your manuscript, as this is the first impression they have of you as a writer and a professional.
After receiving your query, the agent may ask for a full submission to determine whether he or she is interested in representing you and your work. If an agent is interested in taking you on as a client, he or she will contact you with a letter of agreement or contract outlining the terms of your arrangement.
Most agents receive hundreds into the thousands of queries each week and therefore turnaround time for a response from agents can be anywhere from 3 to 6 months or more. Be patient. It is appropriate to contact the agency via email if 3 months have passed without contact.
Download our list of Literary Agents and begin researching to see whether any are a good fit for your manuscript. For a more complete listing of literary agents in Canada, please refer to Quill & Quire’s Book Trade in Canada, available in the reference section of most public libraries.
Do some research. Ask other writers if they’ve had any dealings with the agent or know anyone who has. Search the agent’s name on the internet. How long has he or she been working as an agent? Which authors have signed up with the agent?
You can also check out the listings under “Agents and Attorneys” at Preditors and Editors.