How to Establish a Long-Term Writing Career: Insight From Two Literary Agents

How to Establish a Long-Term Writing Career: Insight From Two Literary Agents

For novelists and nonfiction writers seeking traditional publication, landing a book deal is the dream. And if that deal receives publicity—perhaps due to a multi-publisher auction—then there’s even more reason for the writer to feel like they’ve “made it.”

Some writers will be content with that first deal and have no desire to publish more books. But what about the writers who hope it will be followed by many more—the ones who aspire to make money from their writing, or build a career out of it? How can writers endure in a field that’s known for its instability?

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Beyond Good Writing: Two Literary Agents Discuss What Matters Most

Beyond Good Writing: Two Literary Agents Discuss What Matters Most

Almost anyone who has spent time in the query trenches knows how challenging it is to capture the attention of a literary agent. Most agents, even new agents eager to build their client list, pass on over 90 percent of the queries they receive. In some cases, the reason is obvious: The agent doesn’t represent the writer’s genre; the writer has written a synopsis rather than a query letter; the agent isn’t accepting queries, at all.

The writer might be doing everything right—researching agents, following submission guidelines, querying only once they have a polished manuscript—but still experience radio silence. Or, maybe they are receiving requests for pages, or feedback from the agent along with the opportunity to resubmit, but an offer of representation just isn’t coming through. If the writing is good or at least shows potential—how else would they have come this far?—shouldn’t this be enough to land an agent? Does the writer’s professionalism count for something? I asked literary agents Linda Camacho and Jennifer March Soloway.

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Switching Literary Agents: Two Agents Offer Advice

Switching Literary Agents: Two Agents Offer Advice

Earlier this year, the book publishing world was rocked by stories of unethical behavior by literary agents. On the one hand, this news was disheartening to hear. On the other hand, it opened up a candid discussion on social media about how different agents communicate with their clients and approach the submissions process. This led to a bigger discussion about how to distinguish between an agent who is unfit for the job—and an agent who is fit for the job but a mismatch for a particular client, and vice versa.

These stories made me think about writers who are represented by reputable, successful agents but are quietly contemplating change. If you’re a writer, how do you know if it’s worth the risk of leaving your current agent? Does past representation impede your ability to find a new agent? I asked literary agents John Cusick and Holly Root.

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Starting Later & Starting Over: Launching a Writing Career When You’re No Longer “Young”

Starting Later & Starting Over: Launching a Writing Career When You’re No Longer “Young”

Judging from the many organizations that offer awards and financial support to writers under 35 or 40 (The New York Public Library, The National Book Foundation, Granta), and the seven-figure deals that seem to be given to more 20-something debut writers than debut writers in any other age group, it would be tough to deny that book publishing is youth-focused. But if this is the case, what explains the success of Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx, who at last fall’s National Book Awards ceremony shared that she started writing at 58? Or that of Frank McCourt, who didn’t begin writing until he was in his 60s? Were these writers more talented than younger writers trying to break in at the same time? Or has the industry started gravitating more toward younger writers in recent years?

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Ethics & the Literary Agent: What Rights Do Authors Have?

Ethics & the Literary Agent: What Rights Do Authors Have?

By definition, literary agents are writers’ representatives. They work for writers, negotiating offers from publishers until their client deems them acceptable. But in today’s complex agent-author relationship, many writers feel that they aren’t in the position to negotiate with their agent, partly because they don’t understand the publishing landscape as well as their agent does, but also because they are wary of coming across as difficult or demanding.

Although it’s becoming more common for writers to change agents several times during the course of their careers, most would prefer to stay with one agent. But are writers really in the position to speak up if they feel that an agent isn’t honoring their obligations, contractual or otherwise? If they do speak up, what are the consequences? I asked Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates and DongWon Song of Morhaim Literary.

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