We wanted to get to know Leslie Truex (NAIWE’s Author Representation Expert) better, so last month we sat down with her. Here are some thoughts she shared with us.
What is a literary agent?
A literary agent helps authors sell their books to publishers — that’s the short answer. Literary agents usually help authors get the manuscript ready for submission (many will edit and work with the author on the manuscript before it’s sent off to publishers), review the contract to try and get the best terms, mediate between author and editor when needed, help keep the authors on track so they don’t miss deadlines or necessary work publishers need, etc. Agents stay up-to-date on what’s going on such as what editor isn’t answering email as quickly, where editors have moved to, what editors are now looking for (they change their minds a lot), and more.
Do most authors work with literary agents?
Today, most, but not all, traditionally published authors in the big 5 will have a literary agent. Smaller presses often take nonagented work, but the author needs to understand contracts. Some contracts are bad and an author can commit all their future work to a press if they don’t know what they’re signing (I’ve seen some bad contracts!).
Of course, indie authors don’t have agents for their manuscripts, but some use agents to sell other rights, such as audio or foreign rights to their indie works.
What role does a literary agent play in the submission process?
Literary agents prepare the submission based on what editors want (e.g., query, synopsis or proposal, manuscript). Before submission, agents work with the author to make sure the manuscript is its best based on what agents know editors are looking for. Agents usually submit in batches, which allow for edits if the feedback suggests it. I submit to the big five publishers first, but agents can only submit to one imprint in a big 5 at a time (so if a publisher has two imprints that would work for my book, I can only submit to one). After big 5 imprints are exhausted, if there isn’t a sale, agents send to mid-size and smaller presses. Agents submit the package to the editors and correspond with them. If they ask for the full manuscript, agents send it. If they make an offer, agents get in touch with the author and contact all other publishers that have the manuscript to let them know an offer is in and give them a deadline for responding.
If the author likes the deal, agents review the contract and talk to the author about it. Once the negotiation is done and the contract is signed, the author works with the editor directly, but agents like to stay in the loop to help the author through the process.
Advances (if any) and royalties go to the agent and are then distributed to the author.
Learn how to set your book submission apart from the hundreds . . . even thousands . . . agents receive a year. In this workshop you’ll learn:
- How to get your manuscript ready for submission
- Additional materials you need to prepare for submission
- Where to find and choose agents to submit to
- Pet peeves of agents and how to avoid them
- What to expect when working with an agent
You can join in this conversation on May 17, at 2:00 pm eastern, when NAIWE will host a discussion on the role of the literary agent. The cost for NAIWE members is only $10! Nonmembers can join for $30. Register today!
Leslie Truex is a literary agent with Blue Ridge Literary Agency and an author coach. She began her writing career by accident after starting a career website in 1998 that resulted in a freelance writing career and two traditionally published nonfiction books. However, Leslie’s passion lies in writing fiction. She is the author of a dozen romance and mystery novels using a pen name. Leslie enjoys sharing her insights and experiences to help emerging authors get their books published. She also supports authors through her online community for romance writers and coaching to both fiction and nonfiction authors. Leslie has spoken and provided workshops as an author and agent at a host of events, including The Virginia Festival of the Book, Malice Domestic, Maryland Writers Association, The Virginia Writers Club, as an adjunct at Piedmont Virginia Community College, and more, and she is the former president of The Virginia Writers Club.