A good literary agent can work wonders for the author’s career but it’s very tough to locate and get one interested in your work, specially in a country like India. Outside India, however, there are many good, and many more bad and ugly literary agencies that prey upon the desperation and impatience that permeates the new writer’s psyche. In a bid to get the first publishing break, many writers ignoring the research that is so important before signing up with a literary agency.
There are several things you can be aware of as you seek out representation for your work. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Literary agencies that charge an upfront fee
Some literary agents might charge you for a ‘reading fee’ when you make a submission. In many cases this isn’t mentioned upfront in the submission guidelines of the agencies’ websites. It comes as a revelation after a few offline interactions.
Others may not have a reading fee, but they could ask you for a ‘submission fee’ to cover the costs of sending your manuscript to multiple publishers.
Literary agents who are not transparent about their track record
The real agencies make money, just like the author, from royalties of published books. The fake ones aren’t under pressure to get any of their authors published as they are making loads of money from their clients. It becomes obvious then that they don’t have any real publishers on their list. And even more obvious when they don’t want to share more information about their success stories with new authors that they are trying to woo.
Literary agents who insist on getting professional services
Editing Services: Agents might have their own editing team to ‘polish’ your manuscript and increase the odds of success, with no guarantees of course. Or you may get referred to external editors and you’d have no idea whether there’s a conflict of interest in there somewhere.
Author Promotion Services: You might get coerced to engage a website development company or a PR agency to help strengthen your ‘author brand’.
Literary agents who recommend fee charging publishers
Right, so the logic is we won’t charge you anything, but we’ll introduce you to our proxies who’ll do the fee charging. If you had to pay a publisher to get your book in print, would you really need a literary agency? Self-publishing anyone?
If you’ve also been religiously following the blog, many of the above also go against the holy grail of the publishing world – money flows back to the author. So get the basic principles etched in your mind, all the scamming and scheming variations are not too difficult to catch.