Literary agents and authors
Every selling writer also must be a business person. Enter the agent.
Gone are the day when authors huddled in cold garrets and penned their masterpieces which they in turn gave to gentlemen publishers, trusting that the publishers would fairly compensate them. Some authors were treated fairly. Some weren’t. Some were taken advantage of.
Today, the smart writer learns everything possible about the business aspects of being a writer. Preferably, they do this before they actually receive money so they’ll know what to do with the money when they get it.
The first step in being a professional author who makes a living wage is to get not just literary representation, but literary representation that is competent, conscientious, honest, smart, and, representation that matches your career plans and your personality.
If you haven’t already started drawing up your own lists of A agents, B agents, and C agents, then get moving. The A agents are the dream agents. Those power brokers who play with the big boys and girls. B agents are the established agents who can perform. C agents are kind of like you. They’re just starting out so they’re hungry. Get a good one and grow together.
If you are new to thinking about this agent business, then your first stop should be learning about the Association of Authors’ Representatives. It’s exactly what it sounds like, an organization of literary agents. The AAR was founded in 1991 when the decades-old Society of Authors' Representatives and the new kid on the block, Independent Literary Agents Association, founded in 1977, merged.
Many writing organizations say to make sure an agent is a member of the AAR because membership requires agents to conform to a code of ethics along with having other beneficial objectives. Visit AAR online and learn all about them. Use their searchable database of agents to learn more about those agents you put on your lists.
Authors usually have a lot to say about literary agents. My favorite quotation is from an anonymous wit who said: “Changing literary agents is like changing deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Funny, yes? It also points out the necessity for making a good choice. A literary agent is necessary in this business so educate yourself so you can make an intelligent choice when the occasion presents itself. AAR is a good place to start.
(If you'd like to read more Business of Writing articles, check out my website. Business and Craft of Writing articles can be found on the WRITING page, the subscription newsletter WORDPLAY, and in ARCHIVES.)