Literary agents market and sell a book to a publisher. They negotiate a
contract with them in exchange for a share of a book's royalties (the money
a book earns through sales) and advance (the amount a publisher pays up front
for a book).
Agents help authors find a home for their books at publishing houses. An
author generally approaches an agent, but in some instances, a literary agent
will seek out new talent.
Literary agents review a client's work, advise the author on its marketability
and come up with a possible strategy for selling it. They often offer editorial
guidance and manuscript suggestions to the author.
They also introduce clients to new contacts and help the author understand
current trends in the publishing market. Once a deal has been struck and the
literary agent finds a publisher for the book, the agent collects funds on
the author's behalf.
Once a publisher is found, a literary agent negotiates a fair contract
and licensing agreements and reviews royalty statements with the author. "We
do a lot of the background work for authors," says Wendy Keller, a literary
agent in California.
Once the book is in print, the literary agent continues to monitor the
licensee or publisher's marketing of the book.
The publishing community works in office settings, sometimes at large agency
firms. Other agents, usually once they have learned the trade at a larger
agency, will branch out and become self-employed.