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.
What can I expect in an agreement with a literary agency?
All literary agencies are different, however the Australian Society of Authors provides a template for an agency agreement which can show you what to expect. This may be purchased here.