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Real estate and literary agents: Editor's Notes #391
May 17, 2023

Nothing leads so straight to futility as literary ambitions without systematic knowledge.
—H. G. Wells

In this issue:

1. Real estate and literary agents
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.Real estate and literary agents
Writers wonder if a literary agent is "worth it." After all, the literary agent takes a percentage of the writer’s earnings (usually about 15%).

When you ask yourself if a literary agent is worth it, it may help to think in terms of a real estate agent. Far more people use a real estate agent than use a literary agent. You might even have used a real estate agent yourself. Comparing and contrasting the work these agents do could help you decide if a literary agent is for you.

Both real estate and literary agents work to sell something for the client and both are paid only when the client makes a sale. Here are things real estate agents and literary agents have in common. (Differences follow.):
  • Knowing the markets, agents make suggested improvements.
  • Promote the client’s product.
  • Real estate agents write ads; literary agents help writers prepare pitches.
  • Find buyers.
  • Get the best possible price and terms for the client. Sometimes clients trade money for other terms, and agents negotiate for the client to get what the client wants.
  • Know the applicable law and prepare contracts.
  • Act as a resource for other professionals. Real estate agents often recommend tradespeople or know about amenities in a neighbourhood. Literary agents often know editors, illustrators, indexers, and other professionals.

Here are some differences between real estate agents and literary agents.
  • A real estate agent does not necessarily handle multiple sales for one client, but a literary agent can help a writer to publish subsequent works. A literary agent also tries to sell the writer’s work to other markets (international publication, film, or other collaborations).
  • Literary agents know the submission preferences of various publishers and make sure you follow all guidelines.
  • Real estate agents are licensed, so you should know what you are getting when you hire one. Anyone can set up shop as a literary agent. This means you have to check the agent’s credentials yourself.

It is possible to sell your house without using an agent, and it is possible to sell your book without going through a literary agent. Only you can evaluate the pros and cons of using a literary agent in your situation.

2.Tickled my funny bone
Since I’ve become a full-time freelancer, I’ve made quite a few sales. My car, my house, my clothes…

3. Interesting Web site
Today I’m giving you search terms to help you to find an appropriate literary agent for you.

"literary agents in XXX" where XXX is your geographical location.
"literary agents for XXX" where XXX is your genre, specialty, or age range of target readership.

When you find a listing that intrigues you, do all the research you can about the agent you are considering.

4. Writing prompt
This one could be tricky, but for those who take up the challenge, it could be rewarding. Consider a situation where a writer is also selling a house and writes letters to both the real estate agent and the literary agent but puts the letters into the wrong envelopes. Can you make the letters plausible but just confusing enough to make a good comedy sketch?

I would love to see your result.

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