Key qualities of a good literary agent

In today’s market, most of the books that are published by reputable publishing companies are sold by literary agents. So what is a literary agent? A literary agent is an expert in the publishing industry who represents the interests of writers. In most cases, they can have an inside contact with some publishers and may know the editors who can purchase a specific type of work. 

Even better, a literary agent can secure the right book deal on your behalf, protect your rights, negotiate a fair contract, and make sure that you are paid fairly. But it can be tricky to find the right literary agent for your book. This article discusses the key qualities of a good literary agent. 

A literary agent 

The literary agent can desire to see your full manuscript, especially if you write fiction. On the other hand, if you write nonfiction, then the marketability of your idea tends to matter just like the writing. Therefore, you need to write a book proposal that works as a business plan stating why your book can sell on the market.

But you need to complete your book or manuscript before you decide to submit it. After all, you don’t expect the potential literary agent to assist you to complete your manuscript. That said, some literary agents can handle such editorial work, but you can get a better response when you send a manuscript or even a proposal that is well-polished.

You should note that every literary agent usually has specific requirements for submitting your materials. They can ask you to submit a query letter. In most cases, this is a one-page letter that describes your work. You also need to provide a novel synopsis which is a summary that has at least one or two pages of your story. Remember that your novel synopsis should not reveal the ending.  

A literary agent can also require you to offer a nonfiction book proposal. This is a complex document that often has between twenty and thirty pages. You should also submit a novel proposal which includes your query letter, the first chapter, and a synopsis. 

Lastly, you need to send sample chapters, but before you send them, you need to start from the beginning of your book. This means that you should avoid choosing a middle chapter regardless of whether or not it’s your best part. When it comes to nonfiction, a literary agent can accept any chapter.

Qualities of a good literary agent

It’s a good idea to check the sales track record of the potential literary agent. Quite often, this should be the key sign of whether or not you are dealing with a good literary agent. Therefore, you need to check their client list as well as the publishers they have recently worked with. The publishers should be the right types for your work. 

You should note that these factors tend to be subjective and can be based on your genre and sense of author identity. That said, you need to make sure that the potential literary agent has enough success and experience in representing the kind of work you intend to sell. Many literary agents may provide a list of their current clients on their websites. 

It’s worth mentioning that sometimes it can be easier to work with new literary agents, especially the ones who are trying to create a list of clients. Therefore, if you are a new writer and have a small deal that may not interest a reputable literary agent, you need to opt for a new literary agent. Even if the literary agent is still trying to develop a track record, you can check their previous experience in publishing. This means that you can check if they used to be an editor or consider the reputation and experience of the agency they are associated with. 

And, if they are working at an agency with a good track record and have a long history working with reputable publishing houses, these can be good signs. You should just ensure that they have been trying to create their list for a long time.

It’s also a good sign when a literary agent treats you professionally. Most of the time, some signs of professionalism in literary agents can include when they get back to you timely, communicate respectfully and clearly, and treat you as their business partner. Also, a good literary agent should not handle their business in secrecy.  

Unfortunately, most unpublished writers tend to complain that they don’t receive any responses from their potential literary agents or there is poor communication when it comes to the status of the project. a reputable literary agent cannot leave their clients in the dark for long periods. Instead, they can provide clarity at each stage of the process, making sure that there are no vague reports or loose ends.

Some unpublished writers are quite demanding and expect things to be outside the norm. For example, they want to call their literary agents at any time to discuss their books, expect daily communication, or expect almost instant responses. You should note that a literary agent works for free until the book is sold. Therefore, their most instant responses tend to go to their established clients, meaning the ones who are bringing revenue. 

A good literary agent should also give you the feeling that they believe in you and your work. Literary agents are focused on making a sale, but they can also be excited to deal with projects that they want to be involved in and clients whose long-term goals they feel happy to manage and help. 

It can be hard to place a quantitative measure when it comes to enthusiasm. But your literary agent can decide to handle the contracts with your publishers, negotiations, and financial issues on your behalf. Hence, you must respect and trust them. They represent your interest and fight for your cause to the publisher during the book publication process and resolve conflicts. In other words, you enter into a useful business partnership, so fit is crucial.