Many people self publish for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is a misunderstanding of what a literary agent does and does not do for a client.
Let’s separate fact from fiction.
What Literary Agents Do:
- Find a publishing house interested in a manuscript
- Negotiate offers
- Negotiate contracts
- Provide the author advice on how to increase a manuscript’s chances of selling
- Work on getting an author the best advance possible and maintaining the author’s rights
- Serve as the middleman between publisher and author
What Literary Agents Don’t Do:
- Guarantee a manuscript will sell
- Steal a manuscript and present it to publishers as their own
- Rewrite a manuscript
- Do line edits
- Marketing, advertising and public relations
- Pitch a manuscript to a vanity press
- Act like the author’s friend, business coach or therapist
- Anything unethical
So what is considered an unethical practice among literary agents? Any of the following:
- Charging reading or retainer fees
- Charging for advice
- Making referrals to specific copy editors. This may be indicative the agent is receiving kickbacks.
- Taking more than 15% to 20% commission
Have you ever worked with a literary agent? How was your experience?
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