CONTACTING AN AGENT
How do I bring my work to the attention of a literary agent?
First, please read the information and advice on this page.
Second, look up a suitable agent from our list of member agents and then check their submission guidelines before making contact – if these guidelines are not available on their website, phone or email them according to their stated preference. Some agents prefer you to make a phone call first; others prefer email.
Third, if an agent wants to look at your writing, they will generally ask you to send in an initial submission by email or post, according to their guidelines. They usually do not want to see the whole work at first. [Please note: if sending hard copies, send copies and not the originals. Always keep the originals in a safe place. Agents cannot be responsible for loss of material.]
SUBMISSIONS – GENERAL INFORMATION
What do I need to include in my submission to an agent?
Your submission should follow the guidelines provided by the agency on their website. If there are no guidelines, you may wish to contact the agency (either by phone or email, whichever contact is indicated in their listing on this website) and ask for them.
When you send work to an agency, you must let the agency know which other publishers or agents have seen any versions of the work. If a publisher has already read the work and rejected it, it will be very hard to convince them to read it a second time. It is generally wiser to get an agent before you try a publisher, rather than the other way around. However, if you already have an offer from a publisher you may still wish to approach an agent to negotiate the deal and contract for you.
Do I need to format my submission in a particular way?
Here are some tips about sending in your submission:
- Your work should not be handwritten or produced on a typewriter – it should be composed using a word processing programme.
- Keep it simple: use a simple form of layout and a standard font. Do not use fancy fonts, and do not use fancy or display fonts for headings or sub-headings. It is not necessary to use specific fonts and margins unless the agency’s guidelines ask for this.
- Do not include graphic images unless they are vital to the basic meaning of the work.
- Pages should be numbered.
- If you are asked to post a full manuscript, please don’t bind it.
- Generally, do not send CDs or DVDs unless asked to do so.
If I’m sending a submission by post, should I send a stamped self-addressed envelope?
If posting a submission, make sure that every item you send is clearly labelled with your name and address and include a stamped self-addressed envelope if requested or if you wish to have the material returned.
If you are posting a full manuscript and wish to have it returned, please enclose a self-addressed envelope for return of the material, large enough to enclose the material, with sufficient postage. If an agent receives a submission without return postage, usually it will not be returned.
NB: Do not send mail that needs to be signed for, like registered mail or person-to-person mail.
Can I just drop into the agency with my submission?
It is not advisable to deliver your submission to an agent by hand – the agent is not going to be able to meet with you.
Can I call the agency to check that my submission arrived?
Please do not call the agency to check that your submission has arrived – if all authors did this, agencies would receive a lot of phone calls. If you have not received a response from the agency within the time indicated in their submission guidelines or within eight weeks (whichever is sooner), send an email to enquire.
I’d like to send a submission by email – can I do this?
Yes, if the agent or agency indicates that they are accepting electronic submissions. If they do not expressly say this, don’t assume that they do.
NB: If the agent or agency to whom you are submitting asks for electronic submissions only, do not send submissions by post.
How do I make sure the material is copyright to me?
There is no real need to write on your material that it is copyright by you. If and when the work is published, the publisher will provide the book with a copyright statement. You do not need to register or publish your work to enjoy the protection of copyright status. Australian law says that any literary work is protected by copyright as soon as it is created, and every agent and every publisher understands this.
CHARGES AND FEES
Do literary agents charge a fee to look at a manuscript?
No. The members of the Australian Literary Agents’ Association do not charge a fee to read a manuscript.
Do I have to pay a fee to join an agency?
There is no fee to join agencies who are members of the Australian Literary Agents’ Association.
What fees do they charge, then, to represent an author?
Most literary agents charge an agency commission on their writers’ earnings. The usual commission is around fifteen per cent, although this can vary. This applies for the life of any contract which an agent negotiates, not for the life of the author.
Does this mean that if I join an agency, then later wish to leave, I can do so?
Of course — members of the ALAA do not contractually bind their authors. Authors are free to leave their chosen agency at any time. Keep in mind, though, that an agency commission applies for the life of any contract which an agency negotiates. This means in most cases that as long as a book for which an agency has negotiated the publishing contract remains in print, that agency continues to earn their agency commission on the author’s royalties for the sales of that book.
I think I need some guidance to help me improve my work. Will a literary agency read my manuscript and provide this kind of advice?
Agencies do not provide editorial advice for submissions unless the author becomes a client. If a member of the ALAA decides to represent an author’s work, they may offer detailed editorial advice, depending on the author and the material.
Do you charge a fee for this editorial work?
Agents who are members of the ALAA do not charge any fee for editorial advice of this kind: this is part of the ALAA code of practice.