Do you need a literary agent?
This is the question Alex Adsett, publishing consultant and literary agent, posed to the Write Links group. Alex has 20 years experience in the industry as a bookseller at Pulp, working for publishers like Simon and Schuster in London and Penguin in Australia before branching out to become a literary agent. She now has 30 authors on her books.
In Australia, Alex said the industry is quite small and an author doesn’t necessarily need an agent, but you definitely do when submitting in the USA and UK. Australia has approximately 20-25 literary agents at 15 agencies, which is small compared to the USA and UK which have over 100 agencies. Those Australian agents negotiate around 40% of manuscripts picked up by Australian publishers.
Alex gave some great advice as to why an author might want an agent:
A great agent has:
Alex recommended the Australian Literary Agents Association Code of Conduct as an excellent resource.
Agents generally charge a standard 15% commission of everything they negotiate for you or sometimes 20% for a sub agent/overseas deals. Also look for reputable agents who don’t charge upfront fees.
How to get a literary agent or pitch?
When pitching in a query letter include why the agent is a good fit, the manuscript’s genre, word count, short 2-3 sentence synopsis, how the manuscript is special and a bit about you. Treat it like a job application.
Verbal pitching is another art form. Alex suggests you only have a 1 – 1 ½ minute pitch ready. Make the pitch sound natural and allow time for the agent to ask questions. Don’t talk the whole time and most importantly, be yourself.
As to whether an agent is the right one for you, Alex suggests to trust your instincts.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us Alex and answering all our questions on the industry.