Thursday, September 2, 2010

Staff Hierarchy

After discussing the inter-workings of different editing staffs today, I began to wonder where and how certain people fit into the hierarchy. For example, I understood a literary agent to be someone who is proficient in editing skills; however, it seems as though this position is redundant and unnecessary. What is the real purpose of a literary agent, and how would one really be of use in an author-publisher relationship?


Pat said...

Hi Ashley,

If you click on the first link under Articles in the sidebar, you'll be taken to the blog of Andy Ross, a literary agent. Here is the URL for his website:

I think it's true of most literary agents that they work independently and aren't associated with publishing houses. They are sort of like actors' agents in Hollywood: their goal is to link up talented writers with publishers looking for books that will sell. For this, they get a commission.

Literary agents may love books, but in general they aren't versed in editing.

BTW, when I mentioned lists yesterday, I should have added that publishers select manuscripts that are compatible with their lists. For example, if a publisher's list consists of children's books, the publisher will not be interested in science fiction books.

Pat said...

Let me add a few more things to my previous comment.

Literary agents are engaged by writers who want to get their books published. If they are able to find publishers for the writers they represent, they receive a percentage of the money awarded to the writers.

They have to be very savvy about the industry and know which publishers will want to publish which kinds of manuscripts. To maximize their success, they specialize. For example, you'll see from looking at Andy Ross's site that he'll handle only certain kinds of books.

Literary agents are constantly on the lookout for talented writers, and writers are constantly on the lookout for successful agents. The incentive--I should add--is not only monetary. Many writers have invested much in their books and believe that their creations can contribute to the cultural and artistic world we live in.

One of the U.S.'s most successful agencies is the Steven Barclay Agency.