Literary agents are experts in the publishing industry who represent authors and their work in order to get them published. They match manuscripts and authors with publishers and editors, help negotiate offers and contracts, and help manage an author’s career. A good literary agent supports an author by using their knowledge of the publishing industry to make the best choices for their writing and long-term career, which may not mean working with the biggest publisher or the one that offers the highest advance.
What do literary agents do?
Literary agents essentially act as a middle person between writers and publishers. Some publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts (manuscripts that have not gone through an agent or have not been requested or commissioned by the publishers), which helps control the number and quality of manuscripts that end up on an editor’s desk, but ultimately makes it difficult for writers who want to see their work published. By hiring an agent you are already one step closer to publication, as an agent’s recommendation of your manuscript to a publisher means your work will be considered.
In addition to aiding publication, a literary agent will help with any legal or financial issues, and can negotiate contracts for you. Their knowledge of the literary market and current industry trends is also invaluable for any writer looking to publish.
When looking for a literary agent, do some research into their specialities. Some agents will cover all areas of literature, whereas some will specialise in a particular genre or style of writing – non-fiction and memoir, for example. This research will help in finding the right agent for you.
When do I contact an agent?
Only contact an agent when you have something to show them. Literary agents will not agree to represent you unless they have read a manuscript. This is to ensure due process and professional development of your work. Again, make sure you research your agent first and be diligent about how they operate.
Where can I find an agent?
The following sites are Australian-based and provide information on various literary agents and literary agencies:
- The Australian Writer’s Marketplace
The Writer’s Marketplace is an online database of contacts in the writing and publishing world. They have a directory of literary agents, as well as editors and other writers services; access submission and contact details for publishers, and writing opportunities, competitions and awards. Access to the AWM is by paid subscription, but members of Writers Victoria receive a $10 discount by using the code listed on our member discounts page.
- The Australian Literary Agent’s Association
The Australian Literary Agents’ Association (ALAA) was formed in 2003 in order to provide a public presence and a point of contact for Australian literary agencies and their staff. They currently have 17 members who are committed to providing the best and fairest representation for Australian authors. They also provide some excellent FAQs on contacting agents, submitting to agents, contacts, and other important areas concerning literary agents.
The following are just some of the many agents or agencies in Australia:
- Alex Adsett Literary
- Annabel Barker Agency
- Australian Literary Management
- Calidris Literary Agency
- Cameron’s Management
- Curtis Brown
- High Spot Literary
- Jacinta di Mase Management
- Jenny Darling & Associates
- Left Bank Literary
- Margaret Connolly & Associates
- Margaret Kennedy Agency
- Sarah McKenzie Literary Management
- Zeitgeist Agency