Start-up cost: $500–$1,500
Potential earnings: $20,000–$60,000+
Typical fees: 15 percent of gross commission on domestic sales, 25 percent on foreign rights, 20 percent on fi lm rights
Advertising: Listing in the Guide to Literary Agents and Art/Photo Reps; ads in Writer’s Digest and The Writer magazines; networking at writers’ and publishers’ conferences; Web site with client list, recent sales, and current newsletter
Qualifi cations: Should know a good book a mile away
Equipment needed: Computer with Internet access, printer, fax, copier, phone system
Staﬀ required: No
Hidden costs: Insurance, copying, postage, long-distance phone calls
What You Do
The literary life is indeed a glamorous one, especially if you’re a literary agent. Imagine entire days fi lled with power meetings at large publishing houses, where you’re negotiating for the best deal for one of the many writers you represent. You’ll be oﬀering everything from the right to publish to fi lm and foreign rights. Your business may also extend to book promotion, as you could negotiate book tours and publicity for your client in addition to the sale of the book project itself. Of course, you would hope to represent that one unknown client who could really score big in the publishing industry, such as Robert James Waller with his Bridges of Madison County. Look everywhere for talent, even in remote cities or small rural towns. No matter how hard you try, realize that not all literary agents can represent a Stephen King. You should go in with an open mind whenever you look through the piles of manuscripts and queries on your desk. The successes could really surprise you.
What You Need
Your start-up is relatively low ($500–$1,500) and mostly covers your initial adver-tising costs and basic oﬃce equipment setup. You stand a good chance of earning an income of at least $20,000 with you commission, but look forward to making as much as $60,000 or more if you get that big break.
Keys to Success
On the one hand, you’ll be making a good piece of change hanging around the best media minds in the business. On the other hand, you’ll have to know when to give up on a particular project, even if it seems worthwhile. Often in the publishing world, trends take over and dominate what’s likely to be published. (Remember, for instance, the mafia book craze a few years back?) You’ll need to constantly stay on top of what’s hot.
What sets your business apart from others like it?
Marie Dutton Brown, President of Marie Brown Associates literary agency in New York City, says her business is unique because her agency primarily repre-sents African-American authors. “We connect clients to the publishing industry and provide counsel for writers . . . we focus on black life and culture as well as books of general interest.”
Things you couldn’t do without
Phone, fax, copier, and computer.
“Start small, think big, and follow your niche,” says Brown. She enjoys the process of bringing an interesting creative project to fruition and thrives on posi-tive publicity. She has been profiled by the Associated Press, and that has certainly been a profitable marketing tool.