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What are Literary Agents?

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  1. Introduction
    1. The agent's function
    2. The progress of the role of the agent
  2. History
    1. Writing being recognized as a profession
    2. Copyright laws and the power of the writers
    3. America's first successful agent
  3. The role of the agent today
    1. Breaking into the writing field without an agent
    2. The primary concern of agents
    3. Agents and publishers today
  4. The future of literary agents
    1. Increasing numbers of agencies in the United States
    2. Mergers of publishing companies
    3. Do agencies also need to consolidate?
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works cited

The concept of a literary agent is often a mystery to those not intimate with the field of publishing. Their function is obscured, and many writers even are uncertain of their purpose. However, since their inception in the 19th century, they have come to play an integral part of the book publishing game and are depended on by authors and publishers alike for their services.
According to the Association of Author's Representatives, ?literary . . . agents are engaged in the marketing of rights to literary properties.?

[...] It was determined that some kind of unionization was needed in order to understand the situation and to speak to publishers in a single voice (Feather 175). A number of organizations, namely the Guild of Literature and Art est the Association to Protect the Rights of Authors est.1875, and the Society of Authors est attempted to do this, but it was the rise of literary agents that made real progress in this area (West 78). The earliest manifestations of agents appeared in England in the 1840s. [...]


[...] Lamay, and Edward C. Pease. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers Coser, Lewis A., Charles Kadushin, and Walter W. Powell. Books: The Culture and Commerce of Publishing. New York: Basic Books, Inc Curtis, Richard. Beyond the Bestseller: A Literary Agent Takes You Inside the Book Business. New York: NAL Books This Business of Publishing: An Insider's View of Current Trends and Tactics. New York: Allworth Press Feather, John. A History of British Publishing. New York: Routledge Larsen, Michael. Literary Agents: What They [...]


[...] In light of the fact that many of the earliest agents were scoundrels who fronted vanity presses, convincing poor writers that they had a chance in the literary world while sucking money from them right and left, perhaps these publisher's attitudes are not surprising (West 77). At any rate, the outcry against agents by publishers disappeared when it was realized that they could also benefit the publisher. Agents had taken over many of the small and unprofitable aspects of the book business, including handling anthology reprint rights and arranging lectures. [...]

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