Literary agencies can range in size from a single agent who represents perhaps a dozen authors, to a substantial firm with senior partners, sub-agents, specialists in areas like foreign rights or licensed merchandise tie-ins, and clients numbering in the hundreds. Most agencies, especially the smaller ones, will specialize to some degree, representing authors who (for example) write science fiction, or mainstream thrillers and mysteries, or children’s books, or romance, or highly topical nonfiction. Very few agents will represent short stories or poetry.
Irene began the agency in the loft of a tiny walkup apartment in new york’s upper west side in 1978. She had a phone, a typewriter, three clients, and a complete inability to accept the idea that she wouldn’t succeed. Since then the agency has grown into a thriving international business, with six senior agents, two junior agents, two foreign agents, affiliations with movie agents in l.A., and an airy suite of offices in new york’s chelsea neighborhood.
We represent authors at every level — from multi #1 new york times bestsellers to talented newcomers. Our foreign agents are simply the best in the business. They have placed our books in over 25 territories, many of them at auction.We have one main movie and tv agent in hollywood, who has closed major deals for blockbusters, and we also have a few key backup agents in hollywood. We are sticklers for audio rights and always try to retain and sell them as well as foreign and dramatic rights, for every single title.
We represent commercial and literary fiction and non-fiction of all stripes, for the adult, young adult, and middle grade markets. There is really only one criterion we have, and that is how much we love it and believe we can sell it. What sets us apart from many other agencies is that every one of us has taken on something that might be hard to sell, but we believed in it so strongly that we felt we had to do it. By the same token, every one of us has turned something down that might have gone on to bring in a lot of money, but our hearts just weren’t in it. Our sales go up every year, and we enjoy every minute of it.
We look toward the future with great excitement and open eyes. Many things are changing, and we are prepared to embrace the changes along with those traditions that continue to flourish. Our legacy is powerful. We have a rock solid background, an energetic backlist, and a panoply of authors who inspire us to walk that extra mile. Our experience and skill help us to both grow careers from the ground up, and to continue to nourish them once they have achieved stardom.
Literary agents exist largely to provide services to authors. These services include connecting the author’s work with appropriate publishers, contract negotiation, ensuring payment of royalties, and acting as a mediator if there are problems between the author and the publisher. With the help of agents especially young authors are able to get known by the public. Agents also assist publishing houses and others in expediting the process of review, publication, and distribution of authors’ works. Many well-known, powerful, and lucrative publishing houses (such as the big five) are generally less open than smaller publishers to unagented submissions.
A knowledgeable agent knows the market, and can be a source of valuable career advice and guidance. Being a publishable author doesn’t automatically make someone an expert on modern publishing contracts and practices, especially where television, film, or foreign rights are involved. Many authors prefer to have an agent handle such matters.
This prevents the author’s working relationship with his or her editor from becoming strained by disputes about royalty statements or late checks. Another frequent function of the agent is often that of counselor, advising an author on various aspects of how to make writing a paying proposition on a timely basis. Literary agents are often very experienced members of the publishing industry who usually transition from years of working in the industry before moving on to being agents. Though self-publishing is becoming much more popular, literary agents still fulfill the role of acting as the gatekeepers to the publishing world.