Tough, honest manuscript assessment from pro editors
Getting feedback on your writing is the single most powerful tool of improvement that exists. It's why professional authors rely on editors and agents. It's why the editorial process stands at the heart of the publishing industry. And that transformative power is now available to you.
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12th to 14th September 2014. The Festival of Writing in York.
If you want to meet Literary agents; if you want to learn new writing skills or understand techniques more clearly; if you want feedback on your work; if you want to get together with lots of people who are passionate about writing and be inspired then... You need to book your place today.
Get expert feedback on your work from professional author-editors. The gold-standard way to improve your manuscript.
Literary agents have many roles, but their central job is simply that they sell manuscripts to publishers. In efect, they're salesmen or (more often) saleswomen. In addition to that core job of making the sale, an agent will need to:
(A) know which editors at which publishing houses are suitable for your project.
(B) be able to recommend a course of action if you are in a position to choose (it isn't always about the money.)
(C) run an auction and negotiate a contract.
(D) organise the sale of other rights (US, foreign language, TV & film, etc).
(E) oversee the publication process and advise you throughout.
(F) Offer editorial advice prior to editor submissions. (But note that agents only offer this service if they are already very excited about your manuscript. They're there to perfect something that is already excellent, not mend something that is broken.)
(G) Think about your career - a role which almost always is assumed by an author's agent, not his or her publisher.
If your book is academic / professional / educational or otherwise of niche interest, you probably don't need an agent. Otherwise you almost certainly do - few large publishers take submissions seriously unless they come via a literary agent. (More about what agents do and who needs one.)
In terms of where to find them, you can get a basic list of (nearly all) agencies at the Association of Authors Agents. For much the same sort of thing in printed form, try the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook. But if you want a comprehensive and searchable list of not just agencies but individual agents (complete with photos, biographies, genre preferences etc) you can get one at Agent Hunter, our sister site - we think it's the best agent-search facility anywhere on the web.
(Oh, and literary agents are also correctly known as authors agents - but you'll also find people talking about book agents, publishing agents, fiction agents, writers agents or even writing agents. The best term to use, though, is certainly just "literary agents".)
The normal practice is to send, by post or email, depending on the agent: (i) the first three chapters or approx 10,000 words of your manuscript, (ii) a synopsis of the whole thing, and (iii) a covering letter which is a very short introduction to you and your book. If you want to physically meet an agent, then an excellent place to do so is at our Festival of Writing or Getting Published day. (More info here.) Or watch our video: