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Writers Connecting with a Literary Agent

Updated on December 3, 2015

Literary agents will generally make between 10 and 15 percent for their services

Literary agents are the next step in many freelance writers careers. they are the middleman between your work and the publisher.
Literary agents are the next step in many freelance writers careers. they are the middleman between your work and the publisher. | Source

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Find a literary agent that works with your same genre or niche for a great fit

Having a book or novel that needs to be published for a freelance writer will generally take you into a new world. This is the world of working with a literary agent for your freelance writing career. Many freelance writers will generally limit their work to eBooks or online article content. Though, there may come a time when you need the resources of a literary agent in order to have a book published and having some knowledge about working with a literary agent may be a good thing.

What is a literary agent?

Selling to a commercial publisher will require the skills of a literary agent to be successful nine times out of ten. A literary agent is the go between that brings together the author and the publisher. Agents will present manuscripts to the marketplace and match publishers with work that complements their interests.

Literary agents will work with writers and their payment is generally between 10 and 15 percent of the gross amount received by the writer for their work. Therefore, it is in their best interest to get the freelance writer the most money for their published work. They are working for you to have their best interest served.

Literary agents will offer editorial guidance if you need it, make contact with publishers for your work, if you need an editor and they don’t provide the service they will connect you with one, explain your contract and negotiate contracts for the writers they represent. They are also responsible for selling your manuscript and locating fresh opportunities for getting your work published.

Literary agents generally do not work with work that is less than a full book. Poems and shorter written works don’t generally require the services of a literary agent and will not be worth the agent’s time and effort for the reimbursement they will see.

Where can I find a literary agent?

There are several places to find a literary agent. This is a great listing or database of literary agents that are available for writers that are interested in finding an agent to work with

Make certain that the literary agent you are working with is genuine and sincere. There are some in the industry that will certainly take advantage of freelance writers that are novices to working with agents and you should be aware when shopping for an agent.

Agents that work with the same niche or genre that you write for may be a good fit for you. Send a query letter to an agent you happen to be interested in working with. Don’t send a blanket letter where you simply fill in the blanks. Each letter should be tailored for the individual agent you are interested in working with. Some writers will send several letters at the same time as you search for a literary agent to work with.

Agents that may be interested in working with you will generally request to review a few of the chapters of your finished manuscript. Follow the agency or agents instructions carefully when you send your information for review.

Agents that request a “reading” or up-front fee is generally not legitimate and you may want to find another agent to work with. An agent will collect their fee when you get your payment from the publishing company.

Writing a query letter for an agent

Query letters sent to an agent should be short and to the point. May certain your letter is well written and approximately three paragraphs or less in length.

The letter should include an explanation for your query and why you chose this specific agent for your freelance writing work, a short overview of your book (no need to provide details of characters or plot twists-keep it brief) and a short author bio about you and your work.

Close out the query letter with a statement of your goal or purpose for your book as well as working with the literary agent. Let the literary agent know you would like to send them your manuscript as soon as possible.

Before you sign the contract

After you find an agent to work with to get your book published investigate their credentials. Find out what other authors they work with, what books they have gotten published, what they charge, what publishers they work with and if there are any editing or other fees you will need to pay after your book has been accepted by a publisher. Ask the agent about his relationship with the publisher in general.

Before you sign any contract with the literary agent or the publisher, review it carefully. If you feel better have an attorney review the contents of the contract.

Ask the literary agent about the overall game plan for you and your book. Will the literary agent send your book to more than one publisher? Are there any plans for other rights to your book or work, such as a movie or screenplay? Will you be selling Audio books? All of these are great questions that surround your money as a writer and you can never be too careful about asking these questions and obtaining a good understanding of your work and how you are monetizing it.


Although literary agents generally don’t work with poets for publication of their work, if you are a poet don’t fret too much. Many agents will help clients that they work with publishing a book with a poetry project as a pro bono or free case. Additionally, if you are submitting your own poetry work to small presses yourself, you generally don’t need a literary agent.

Follow the submission guidelines for individual publishers and submit your poetry or books of poetry for self-publication.

Working with a literary agent is an important step for many freelance writers in their career and taking the right step is vital to having a successful career. These are techniques to make certain you get to where you should be when you need the services of a literary agent.


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    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 6 years ago from Utah

      Thank you for sharing more valuable information. Voted up, marked useful and interesting.

    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 6 years ago from all over the web

      thank you for your comments. i am sure there are a lot of writers that have certainly wrote books and other content where a literary agent will come in handy

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 6 years ago

      Wonderful Hub, Smcopywrite, I toy every now and then with a Novel that I wrote a few years back...What to do, where to go... You have Summed it all up so well in this very enlightening Hub...I know most Agents as you have stated don't bother with Poetry, certainly NOT until your published a GOOD book. I shall bookmark this Hub, Thank you!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      As yoy say, good information to know.I've put all my longer length stuff on hold, but who knows?