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How Literary Agents Work

Trident Media Group Literary Agent Mark Gottlieb Explains How Literary Agencies Work

This article was written by literary agent Mark Gottlieb of the Trident Media Group literary agency, exclusively for Writers Services.

Mark Gottlieb

I have often heard that authors are interested in how literary agents work. It is very simple: a literary agent exists to provide services to authors. This may include, but is not limited to:

Performing book sales

First and foremost, literary agencies try to obtain new book publishing deals for their clients. Sometimes this begins at the pitching process with book editors, or it can occur when an author is due to renew for another book deal with their publisher. Making book deals allows for new book publishing opportunities and revenue streams to spring forth for authors.

Giving editorial guidance

Some of the first hands to touch a manuscript are those of an agent. Many book editors at publishing houses expect manuscripts to come in as fully-polished as possible, before their consideration. Agents will usually work with writers to perform an overall edit on a manuscript, depending on the individual needs of the writer and manuscript.

Making book-to-film/TV sales

It is highly unusual for book publishing companies to retain film/TV rights in a book publishing deal. So when an author retains their film/TV rights after their agent concludes a book publishing deal with the author's publisher, the agency is often able to help facilitate a book-to-film/TV submission or potential deal with production companies and studios.

Performing foreign rights deals on behalf of clients

Where foreign rights or book translation rights are reserved in a book deal with a domestic publisher, an agent can then often help facilitate deals with book publishers overseas for authors. Oftentimes, this involves pitching books to foreign book publishers throughout the year at events such as the London Book Fair, the Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two. and the Bologna Book Fair.

Facilitating contract negotiation via a contracts or business affairs department

Book publishing is a business at the end of the day and most large business transactions require formal written agreements between an author and publisher. An agent will request that a book publisher send an initial draft of their agreement to the agency for their review and comment, before a final draft is sent to the author for their review and signature. Most agencies keep a standard boilerplate agreement with book publishers in order to help expedite the process. A literary agency such as Trident Media Group that has a volume of business that goes to the bottom line of most book publishing companies will be able to get preferred terms for authors during the contract process.

Handling accounting & information tracking

Some publishers are slow to pay and so the burden of tracking down payments on behalf of authors is a task often performed by an agent or someone at the agency. The same can be said of tracking down publishing contracts. We also carry out foreign tax filings for authors so that when they receive foreign income from their foreign publishers, the tax penalties are often reduced or done away with completely.

Making audiobook deals

As with book-to-film/TV deals and foreign rights deals, a literary agency can often help facilitate audiobook deals on behalf of their clients with independent audiobook publishers and audiobook imprints at bigger publisher houses.

Handling eBook sales & marketing

The changing book publishing landscape has seen the burden of marketing move further into the author and agent's courts. That is not to say that book publishers do not monitor eBook sales and marketing closely, but they tend to be focused primarily on their biggest brand name authors. We devise ways with clients to improve upon the marketing plans of book publishers, while making plans of our own.

Managing the publishing business of authors

Agencies will help to oversee the overall book business associated with their clients. This could include any number of miscellaneous things; from helping to arrange author travel/hotel stay during an author event in town; to giving general advice; to helping obtain endorsements for authors from bestselling and award-winning authors.

Mark Gottlieb has ranked highly among literary agents across publishing in overall volume of deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his own client list of authors of fiction and nonfiction. Mark is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at US book publishing's leading literary agency, Trident Media Group. During his time at Trident Media Group, he has represented numerous New York Times bestselling authors, as well as award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold numerous books to film and TV production companies. Mark Gottlieb is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres.