The “double game” of the literary agent

Do not be fooled, we have no intention of involving you in the sticky and twisted plots of a spy story.

Here we just want to tell you a story whose protagonists are literary agents, authors and publishers. And it is not necessarily a mystery: the “double game” of the title is a playful and innocent expression that we want to use to refer to the very delicate and precious mediation role that the literary agent plays in favor of both authors and publishers: mediation the literary agent is the fundamental ingredient of this story, of the adventure of a typescript that from the dust of the fateful drawer of dreams reaches the long-awaited publication.

The plot: an author delivers the “transfugo” typescript to the literary agent who takes it into custody, reads it, analyzes it, evaluates it in every aspect, corrects it and improves it if it is the case, and considers it valid and well written begins to look for the right publisher to whom to propose it. Untangling himself in the dense forest of catalogs, necklaces, editorial lines – which dictate the choice of titles to publish – promotion and distribution services of the most varied publishing houses, he finally identifies the truly ideal one. Then, with phone calls, faxes, e-mails, brandishing irrefutable evaluation forms, he makes his way into the editorial office and runs to deposit the text on the desk of the chosen publisher.

Long last! But also for the publisher, who thus finds on his desk – a pile of anonymous typescripts and all still to be read – a text already evaluated, perfected, and more, in line with his editorial choices. Perhaps the very text he was waiting for … The agent did mediation work also for the benefit of the publisher, whose fruits are soon to mature. Indeed, very often, after weeks of waiting, the announcement of the publisher: “seen, print!”.

The good book met its elective publisher, and convict was, is, and will be the literary agent.

There is something romantic about this story, it is true … but let us not forget that the literary agent is a “difficult” profession, in which one cannot improvise.

The literary agent is a well-rounded editorial operator, and his strategic role within the publishing chain, that is, of linking authors and publishers, requires an ad hoc training course and a rigorous daily updating practice on the “state of the art” of publishing, its traditions, dynamics, new gender trends.

The literary agent must develop an excellent ability to read and evaluate each text, not only “in absolute”, that is on the basis of the intrinsic quality of the writing, but also in relation to the reference editorial context, to highlight limits and potentiality of each text with respect to models and trends, but also to define the appropriate promotion strategy, which is resolved – in part – in the search for those publishing houses where the text may have more chances of publication.

This is the happy ending possible if the agent in question is a professional who aims to promote valid works with real publishers.

A serious and competent professional and not that cynical being to whom we have become accustomed the jokes that speculates on the dreams of authors inexperienced with the complicity of greedy printers and pseudo-editors. They are neither agents nor publishers, but nice and good scammers. With characters made, history can only fall towards an end that is anything but happy and the “double game” of the title is, unfortunately, synonymous with a treacherous strategy against the author.

Here is the workmanlike fraud: the double agent undoubtedly gains the author’s trust by offering him free services or ridiculously low costs, literary prizes of dubious seriousness … in particular, the traditional weapons of fraud are free evaluation sheets: contain flattery to the author’s narcissism, free not only to the author’s wallet, but also to the speech of the skilled pseudo-agent, who, it is certain, does not read the typescripts, and in any case never reads them for the purposes of an evaluation serious and truthful. So flattered, the author willingly turns to the editor indicated to him by the fraudulent agent: a mere printer who asks for a “small sum” in the order of thousands of euros as a contribution to the costs of printing, promotion, distribution, and, since there is, also for the services of the agent.

If, on the other hand, the agent does not report to a publisher-printer, with the old trick of the free and flattering card he persuades the author – all the authors that happen to him – to sign an editorial management contract, which costs him “only” 800 euros per year: for this figure the agent can search for a publisher willing to publish a text that in all probability is neither a masterpiece nor a humble text worthy of note.

But examples and scam tales are wasted, so if any of you are looking for a serious and competent literary agent, it is good that you first check some warranty requirements. The first, unavoidable, is the cost of the service: each literary agency is a commercial activity that offers adequate support to authors and publishers through its services, which, far from any mere profit, have a cost, unless there are no other sources of income …

To avoid mingling we immediately specify that the Bookmark and a few other Agencies in Europe are distinguished by professional criteria: we invite you on our site to read the vademecum of a real agency and its guarantee requirements that will be useful in your search … to happy end.

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