What is a literary agent

What about literary agents

Having a literary agent has become indispensable if you have a serious writing career in mind. Finding a good literary agent, however, is hardly easier than finding a publisher. In addition, there are also many black sheep in this area.

But nothing can happen to you if you stick to the followingthree iron ruleshold:

§1: Money only flows FROM AGENT TO AUTHOR - never in the opposite direction.

§2: There areNOEXCEPTIONS to Rule 1.

§3: If you believe that for whatever reason there is BUT an exceptional case,ERRORYourself.

Who is trying to "sell" you an exception to rule 1 ("reading fee" for example) isuntrustworthy. Point.

Everything else you need to know about this subject, plus a directory of renowned literary agencies, can be found in the book "Dream job author ", by Joachim Jessen, Martin Meyer-Maluck, Bastian and Thomas Schlück, published by mvg-Verlag. (They happen to be my agents. But that's really a coincidence.)

Does it make sense to work with a literary agent in Germany?

Yes. However, there are few good ones and some dubious ones. It is dubious: if agents demand a reading fee or regular monthly payments. A good agent contracts you to receive a certain percentage of all income from your publications, e.g. 10-15%. Since he negotiates better contracts than you yourself, it pays off immediately. Basically, it's a good sign if a respected agent takes you at all. Since he has a reputation to lose, it means he thinks you are good.

To answer the question "How do you find agents?" To answer in advance: Get the catalog of the Frankfurt Book Fair, there they are all in there.

Did your agent somehow handle it differently at Solarstation than you did with the first one?

Yeah yeah He negotiated a contract in a cool and professional manner, in a really tough struggle, with which one can live well. And e.g. keep the foreign and film rights. (I dream of "SOLARSTATION" with Bruce Willis in the lead role ...)

I've always negotiated myself with my previous books, but sometimes I wonder if I'd be better off with an agent.

I remember a conversation I once had on CompuServe with a New York agent. He said that he was not only an agent, but also wrote books himself. But he does not represent them himself, but instead has an agent himself, and not even a colleague from his own agency, but one far away. Representing his own books himself was an "invitation for trouble", he said.

I once read a book about negotiation and found the remarkable insight in it that you are in a STRONGER negotiating position if you do NOT have full powers. Then you can always say in tricky situations, "I have to ask my wife first" or "I would take the wall unit, but my husband would definitely not be happy with the price".

And as an author you have all the powers, ergo a more difficult position!

I'm writing my first novel. The first three chapters have been completed. Would you knock on an agent right now?

This is of little use if this is the first book you ever write. An agent will want to see that you can finish a book too. Many can start a book. Finishing one thing is something few can do.

I need an agency, I'm an organizational idiot.

No, you can be an organizational genius and still need an agent. In negotiations with publishers, an agent generally has a better position than an author. (In the USA, agents who write books themselves can be represented by OTHER agencies !!)

"My" agent (I don't have a binding contract with him, but I feel morally obliged to him, he really helped me a lot) told me that the original title of my novel made him aware of it. Now he's asking me to change him. Isn't it my right to choose the title myself?

But. Nobody can change the title against your will. Copyright is very clear on this point.

Basically, changing the title can sometimes be a boon to a book. Some writers have a knack for finding the worst possible titles. And the cases in which a good title makes a bestseller are legion.

In your case, what you say about this agent doesn't seem kosher to me. You seem like a bad, non-respectful relationship, and that's not a good foundation. Having an agent is like being married, remember! Ideally, this relationship should last a lifetime, and what you're describing sounds more like the start of a bad marriage. Remember: an agent needs an author more than the other way around, because an author can publish a book without an agent - an agent without an author is nothing.

In my opinion, an agent can at best gently encourage people to think about whether another title might be more sales-promoting. To my ears, however, it sounds as if he doesn't even make it through the door of publishers, because editors ignore titles at first and read the synopsis. In other words, the request to change titles usually comes from publishers, and that is something completely different.

I am one of those young writers who are desperate to get published. The problem is that the agency, a big one in Berlin, asked me if I had published before. I said no (comment "... this is very bad ...") and got my manuscript back after 2 weeks with a general statement. Now I am demotivated because the agencies no longer want to sponsor young authors. The topic is topical and well taken up, as I think. Okay, it was just a rejection, but what do I do if no agency wants to sign me, so I don't even have to start with the publishers?

That is not right. In general, it is more difficult to get a contract with an agency than with a publisher.

Agencies are basically only interested in authors who suggest a certain level of productivity - at least every 2 years a new book, roughly speaking.

What you CAN do is:

  1. Why don't you actually try to get something published, a short story, a little fable, and if it's just for free in a literature journal. Take part in literary competitions. Apart from the fact that it improves your CV ("First short stories published in XY magazine"), it is an interesting and educational experience.
  2. You can approach publishers independently of this. The ideal situation is that a publisher is interested in your book - then you should contact an agency that you've heard good things about and ask if they would like to represent you! No agency will then say no.
  3. You can try other agencies. Tastes are different, as are the business areas, and it can take a while to be in the right hands.

What you SHOULD be doing is:

Forget that someone should "promote young writers". At the agency and publishing level, book writing is a tough business where the only thing that counts is whether what you do is salable. That's it when you write in such a way that you reach your readers, make them dream, inspire them. Everyone in this game doesn't care whether you are young or old, man or woman, experienced or beginner - only the words on the paper count. Have the magic or not. Focus on that. If what you're talking about has a shine, it's only a matter of time before it catches the eye of someone in what is sadly a busy world. And then it starts.

The "someone should encourage young authors" attitude begs for handouts. But that's not what you want. They want you to be valued for what you write. (And by the way: If the brakes of your car have strange dropouts and you drive to the workshop, then you don't care whether the mechanic is young or old, and you definitely don't want to "support a young mechanic" - you want yours Brake is properly and reliably repaired. Or?)

What do you think is the better solution: First try to find an agent or write to the publishers personally?

If you can find an agent first, it's better. But agents are not easy to find either.

I have found an agency that seems serious to me and made me the offer to work with me. Would it put a strain on the relationship of trust if I asked to exclude the referral to printing subsidy publishers?

That should be a matter of course for a reputable agency. If not, it would not only be NOT a serious agency, but also one on the direct path to bankruptcy. Because: A reputable agency only ever earns from what the author gets from the publishers. How should that work with a grant "publishing house"? Did the agency contribute to the costs? Certainly not.

Am I not the "last resort" of the decision anyway? That means, just as a real estate agent can look for my buyer, but ultimately I still have the decision, can I also use my veto in my relationship with the literature agency ?!

Of course, because YOU ultimately have to SIGN all the contracts the agency negotiates. And until you do that, nothing is valid. That's even better than a veto, I would think.

And if I do find an agent, will they copyright me?

Copyright is created automatically, you don't have to secure it. You're worrying the wrong way. God knows, publishers are sometimes rascals, but I've never heard of anyone stealing a young author's manuscript. Such a maneuver could also have devastating consequences for a publisher.

If I send my manuscript to an agent and just want to ask him if he could mediate the book, can it happen that I am going to someone who is about to send me an invoice for the editing costs? How can I cover myself?

You do not need to cover yourself there; you simply do not need to pay such a bill. Unless the agent in question informs you in advance that he will only review your manuscript for a fee and you agree to this (all in writing). But in that case, that would tell you that this is not a serious agent anyway.

I've already managed to write to an agency, but unfortunately received a rejection. Not that I'm burying my head in the sand now, no, but I'm afraid that I might have made a mistake while shipping it.

You're not going to like hearing that very much, but I'm afraid you have to consider that it is more what and HOW you wrote, not the way you sent it. As for my own agency, I can assure you that they are very tolerant of packaging, formatting and things like that, and that all that matters is the text, and I think other agencies are no different.

The fact that an agency cancels, however, is not an OFF; Just like publishers, agencies also have their preferences, their specific ideas about what is marketable and what is not. (Many novels were rejected dozen of times and later became world bestsellers!) And some agencies simply do not accept certain genres on principle, or they do not accept anyone at all at the moment because they are busy with the existing author base.

But don't fall for rip-offs! There are pseudo-agencies that are only out to steal the money from the authors - not only that you get rid of your money for "book doctors" and "professional proofreading" and the like, these agencies also have no real contact with publishers, ie , it doesn't even get you anywhere.
Nothing can happen to you if you strictly adhere to the above three rules.

I managed to finish a novel and when I was looking for agencies I found what I was looking for. Two agencies responded positively and sent me a payment order (offer). XY agency wanted 2500 euros and XYZ literature studio only 600 euros.

... with these words many stories begin, which then end with "and then I was rid of all my savings and had not achieved anything at first".

Basically: Money should only flow FROM THE AGENCY TO THE AUTHOR - never the other way around. And the agency in turn gets the money from the publishers, and these in turn from the buyers - YOUR book. As simple as that.

And an agency that wants money from YOU is dubious. It's that simple too.

And please DO NOT ask: There are no exceptions. Point. Really none.

Since I have already read on various occasions that agencies that want to be paid in advance for services are more likely to be considered dubious, I am of course cautious.

OK then.

Or do you advise me against such agencies in general, which are so keen to recruit the next generation?

They are mainly concerned about their wallets. Yes, I advise against it.

The rules are very simple:



It's not that hard to understand, is it? Don't confuse common sense with pink glasses hope thinking. Keep looking while you write the next novel.

I got the feedback from a (large) agency that the reader would not be interested in my poor writing life, even though it was a fictional story. Is it basically the case that an unknown author who writes in the first person is always immediately identified with his text?

No. The text must invite you to do so. For example, if a 24-year-old gay author writes about the love affairs of a 24-year-old gay author, it is an invitation. If the author writes first-person about the experiences of a forty-year-old prison guard, no one will think of identifying him with it.

If possible, authors shouldn't write about the life of an author anyway. This results in illegible stuff 99% of the time.

Said feedback should rather be an indication that the following counter-argument against the first-person form applies: that writing in the first-person form increases the risk that first-time authors will not turn into a novel, but a kind of diary that only the author can use can understand. If you write in the first person AND about the existence of an author, the text may just become too private for you.

Can I agree with the agency that (for example) I will not accept a profit share of less than 2.8%?

That doesn't mean a share of the profit, but a bonus. It refers to the NET sales price of the book (minus VAT) and is typically between 5 and 9% for paperbacks and between 7 and 10% of this for hard covers.

It is the natural self-interest of an agency to negotiate the most lucrative contracts possible for its author, because it also makes money from them.

I would like to try to approach a suitable agency with my work. Since I deal with non-fiction and novels or stories, an agency that represents both non-fiction and prose would be ideal. However, this combination seems to be quite rare. Do you know of a literature agency that has a good reputation, is serious and represents both areas?

Most agencies do both as far as I can see; they just don't ring it up. And certainly no agency that represents your novels would say, "You can take care of your non-fiction books by yourself". So that's not a real problem. The real problem is to find an agency that says, "yes, we will represent you." It's no easier than finding a publisher. A good list of reputable agencies can be found in the book "Traumberuf Autor" by Jessen / Mayer-Maluck / Schlück; Further addresses can be found in the catalogs of the Frankfurt Book Fair, where the agencies, as is well known, occupy their own hall and everything is represented, which has a reputation and a name. You just have to ask and trust your knowledge of human nature.

I sent the first excerpt to a literature agency, and they wanted the rest of it. But since they have everything (a good two months) I haven't heard from them. How much time should I give them? I already bite my nails, but I've never been the patient type anyway.

Then stand by it and ask. Two months must be enough to read a manuscript that has been requested. You can be very friendly on the phone, but just ask about the current state of affairs, that is not improper, it is thoroughly professional. If the status is still the same, you can also ask when a decision can be expected. Some people are able to sound on the phone as if they had another tempting offer up their sleeves without suggesting anything like that with a single word; if you belong to this genre, play it off!

How do I find a good agent out of this, i.e. an active, active and very good agency. Because once I have committed myself, I am bound to this decision "for better or for worse" with my first, perhaps only but definitely most important, work. Of course, the first hurdle is to arouse the agent's interest and to represent ME. But - assume that all criteria are assessed positively and several are interested. In your opinion, are there any indications in the answers as to which partner could be the right one?

First of all, the basics have to be right, i.e. he works purely on participation in the success fees (usually 15%), and something like reading fees, monthly contributions or the like. etc. is best not even an issue.

Then one can easily ask which are the most successful authors the agency represents and which successful books, for example, came about through them; that gives an impression.

And if you are still spoiled for choice, you can call the relevant PUBLISHERS and ask what they think of this agency.

© Andreas Eschbach

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