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The job of a literary agent

Last week I began thinking about what the technical responsibilities of a literary agent are compared to what we at DGLM do for our clients.  I researched the subject and I also asked our staff what they thought.  The results are interesting and I wanted to share those with you, our readers.

First, I found this definition of the responsibilities of a literary agent online:

Literary agents represent authors in the publishing world. Authors rely on literary agents to manage the business aspect of publishing for them. Agents negotiate contracts regarding publishing rights, advances and royalties. They represent authors to book publishers and other companies that may be interested in publishing an author’s work.

It turns out that this is a good definition but it doesn’t cover nearly all of the things we do for our clients at our agency.

This weekend for example Miriam and I have been working on amending an exciting movie/TV contract for one of our clients who had previously committed to this project without really realizing what she was getting into.  In fact, working with our clients on weekends and after office hours is something we do all the time.

We also do many things that other agencies do not do:

  • We send out  adult and childrens’ book  newsletters three times per year announcing the books we will be selling in the following four months and those we have sold in the previous four months.
  •  We have a digital book program with its own manager whereby we help clients self-publish their work—either new projects or those where the rights have reverted.
  • We have an extensive, informative website which we are constantly updating.
  • We have author social media guides for all kinds of situations.
  • We are very hands on in career management, advising our authors not just in the book space, but also in film/TV, newspapers and periodicals, and in whatever other career category they require our help.

We  also often go above and beyond, by helping clients with legal issues on for other parts of their lives, helping them to get mortgages or refinance their homes, even helping them to get jobs when we are able, and, perhaps more importantly,  providing a constant source of advice and support.

Above all else, and as I have said very recently in this space, we never give up until we really believe we have hit a wall and that it is best for our client to move on to the next project.  What is your experience and your expectations of literary agents?

I am sure I have overlooked some of the things we do that go above and beyond that tight definition of the responsibilities of the agent but this will give you a very good idea of the kind of agency Dystel & Goderich Literary Management is.

One Response to The job of a literary agent

  1. My mentor had over 150 professional hits, including some big names. Another gentleman, who was like an uncle to me, was Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano’s maternal nephew who had over 300 professional hits, and who was truly considered ‘baddest of ’em all!’ My mentor and Luciano’s nephew insisted that I act as their personal biographers and share their exploits with the rest of the world after their passing. Luciano’s nephew was actually photographed at the scene of JFK’s assassination, a copy of which I have in my possession. – I was invited on board Tony’s ocean-going yacht along with my mentor, or not. I declined because I had a family to support and a step-daughter in preschool.

    I have lots and lots and lots of names with which I knew or write about going all the way to the top of government back in those days.

    James Tefft a.k.a. Jim Al Tefft a.k.a. D. A. Eyestone (birthname with son’s initials).

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