As a relatively new author, having been at it full-time for the last three years, I have often wondered how it is to be a literary agent. Perhaps my view of them is jaundiced by my experience as a new author knocking on the doors of recognition. Like everybody else, I have submitted queries to many literary agents. Most, I grant, have taken the time to respond, even if not in the positive.
That set me thinking. Does all it need to become a literary agent is to have a huge love for books and for reading? Surely, there is more to it than that? What about contacts and intimate knowledge of the publishing industry. Didn’t the name start off as “publishing agent” in the old days anyway? Does it need negotiation skills to secure the best deal for the author client ( and in turn for the agency /himself/herself.)? Would it matter at all if the agent hasn’t written more than a few pages himself or ever been published? Does the agent have to have any particular kind of degree by way of education? Will a MFA make one a successful agent? Is agenting all about shifting the wheat from the chaff or does it call for an instinct to know which story will fly and which will not? Don’t they need current knowledge of the crowded market place to figure out what is taking the reading world by storm and what is putting it to sleep?
There are many questions, I know. To give you a feel for the business ( yes, it is a business, make no mistake about that. It isn’t a tea time hobby), I have selected a few links, which I hope will give you perspectives of the business.
Writing in The Guardian, Leo Benedictus tells us about Anthony Harwood, a veteran with over two decades experience in the trade, and the working life of a literary agent.
Looking for a list of what it takes to become one? Rachelle Gardner, whose tweets and blog posts I follow avidly, gives you insights into how to become a literary agent.
Now that you know what they do, and what they need to succeed how about zoning in from an important aspect from your perspective as an author? Who will deliver the best results for you? From the other side of the fence, Noah Lukeman shares his advice on “How To Evaluate A Literary Agent.”
I realize that all the links are from the West but we in India don’t have as yet a well-developed network of literary agents. Yes, there are a few doing the rounds, but they don’t seem to be in any hurry to publicize what they do, or to actively seek more clients. Perhaps the demand and supply situation makes them far more comfortable than their counter parts in the US.