Saturday, November 13, 2010

Getting A Literary Agent

Getting A Literary Agent

First of all, what is a literary agent?

He or she is a person who presents a writer's work to a publishing house, negotiates the writer's contract, and acts as an advocate for the writer and a go-between for the writer and the publishing house.

An agent normally gets a 15 percent commission of the writer's contract. If an agent is asking for more than 15 percent they should give you a damn good reason why!

And please remember, no reputable agent will EVER ask you for money out of your pocket. The agent should not get paid unless they get you a contract, and then they get their money off the top. The publisher does not send you royalty checks, they send the checks to the agent. The agent then cashes the check, and cuts you a check for the amount of the royalty minus their commission. No reputable agent will ever require a reading fee, a retainer fee, or any other kind of fee. They get their commission, and that's it!

Do you need a literary agent?

Well, you don't have to have one, but my personal advice is you should have one. One reason is because most major publishing houses won't accepted unagented material. But even if you only plan on submitting your manuscript to small publishing houses, it's best to do so through an agent. You may be a wonderful writer, but it doesn't mean you know squat about negotiating a literary contract -- those things can be VERY complicated.

So, okay . . . it's almost impossible to get a publishing deal without getting an agent, and it seems that it's almost impossible to get an agent! What's an aspiring author to do?

Well, let me give you a couple of tips on finding an agent.

One - there is a handy-dandy book Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents 2010 (Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents) that is a very useful resource. Not only does it list reputable agents, but it also tells you what most are looking for.

Two - There are a number of websites like P&E (Preditors and Editors) which list literary agents, and also actually rates them. You can find them on the web at  (

Three - Get recommendations from already published authors. Yeah, I know, I know, there seems to be some authors who recoil when you ask them the name of their agent -- as if they fear their agent might sign you and then drop them -- but the majority of authors will go ahead and tell you the name of their agent. And if you know the author well, and they are familiar with your work, ask them if you can use their name when querying the agent.

Four - Go to the bookstore or library and find books in the genre which you are writing (general fiction, non-fiction, biographies, science-fiction, urban-fiction, mystery, etc.) and read the acknowledgement pages. Most authors thank their agents in these pages. If the agent got them a deal, maybe they can get you one, too!

Five - Find someone who will give you a list of agents whom they personally recommend, along with telephone numbers and email addresses. And here you go! (smile!)

My Recommended Agent List

These are all agents with which I've had personal dealings.

Liza Dawson
350 Seventh Avenue
Suite 2003
New York, NY 10001
(212) 465-9071

Sara Camilli
1762 Sand Beach Rd.
Hummelstown, PA 17036
(717) 533-7019

Victoria Sanders & Associates
241 Avenue of the Americas
Suite 11H
New York, NY 10014
(212) 633-8811
(accepts email submissions only)

Tracy Sherrod Literary Agency
New York, NY
(212) 369-6785

Marie Brown Associates
412 W. 154th Street
New York, NY 10032
(212) 939-9725

Djana Pearson-Morris
Washington D.C.
(202) 723-6088

Jane Dystel
Dystel and Goderich Lit. Agency
One Union Square West
Suite 904
New York, NY 10003
(212) 627-9100

Manie Barron
Claudia Menza & Manie Baron Associates
1170 Broadway
Suite 807
New York, NY 10001
(212) 889-6850

Deidre Knight
The Knight Agency
577 South Main Street
Madison, GA 30650
(706) 752-0096

David Black
156 Fifth Avenue
Suite 608
New York, NY 10010
(212) 242-5080

Lori Pope
Faith Childs Literary Agency
(212) 995-9600

Denise L. Stinson
Stinson Literary Agency, Inc.
33290 W 14 Mile road #482
West Bloomfield Hills, MI 48322

The Mondella Jones Literary Agency LLC
5042 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 349
Los Angles, CA 90036 (general information) (queries and submissions)

Audrey Barrett
Barrett Books
12138 Central Avenue
Suite 183
Mitchelville, MD 2072
(301) 627-3302

Getting a literary agent is NOT easy, but if you've got a good manuscript -- and you persevere -- I'm sure you'll be able to land one!

As always . . . I wish you the BEST of luck in all of your literary endeavors!


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