The publishing industry has been on a roller coaster for the last few years. And it’s not just publishers who are changing, literary agents are too. As technology creates a more connected world, you can expect to see even more shifts in the way that literary agents operate.
Here are just a few predictions about what you might expect from the literary agent of the future:
Reads all year round. Okay—literary agents are already reading all year round. Yes, even during the lazy days of summer. Laptops, tablets, and smart phones are making it easier than ever for agents to consider your query letters and manuscripts—no matter the time of year. Thanks to Wi-Fi, agents can read submissions anywhere: by the pool on vacation, on the subway, etc. (Read More: Why Writers Should Submit Books During The Summer.)
(NOTE: The same is true for literary journals. While some do close for the summer, there are a lot of journal editors who are still reading. Submission manager technology makes it possible for lit mag editors and volunteer readers to access submissions remotely. So keep your submission strategy strong, and don’t miss the 5 advantages of summer submissions!)
Doesn’t shy away from authors who need help self-publishing or who have already self-published. There was a time when agents didn’t know what to do for writers who prefer to self-publish. But agents are finding ways to become increasingly useful to writers who are in the self-publishing market.
Isn’t caught up with stringent genre expectations. In the old days, manuscripts had to be “book length” so that publishers could earn a decent return over the cost of printing. But with the proliferation of e-readers, the rules about word count are a little more flexible (especially for independently published writers).
Also, we predict that publishers will be more open to books that blur the lines of genre as the question “where is the book shelved?” becomes less and less important due to easy cross-categorizing in digital bookstores.
Accepts submissions via submission managers instead of email. Literary journals are already tracking submissions using online submission managers; we think it’s only a matter of time before literary agents see how useful they are in the long-term and begin to do the same.
Doesn’t have to be in New York. It’s becoming easier and easier for publishing professionals to live outside of the industry’s capital city. With online chatting, easy transportation options, and faster communication, the best agents no longer need to be located in New York (although many do make regular trips for in-person meetings).
Does increasingly more overseas deals. As technology makes the world smaller, it will become increasingly easy for agents to approach overseas markets for book deals (maybe even for first sales). We also expect that using subsidiary agents in foreign countries might become unnecessary as communication with overseas publishers becomes easier and easier.
What Does This Mean For Unpublished Writers?
You already know that there are more opportunities and pathways for publishing a book now than ever before. As for getting an agent, we think you can look forward to increasingly swift turnarounds and—we hope—less waiting during the publishing process as time goes on. For now, be sure you get your book in front of literary agents no matter what time of year it is (and if it’s summer, even better!). Good luck!
QUESTION: What other changes do you think literary agents will make in the future?
Although many of your points are well taken, it’s been my experience, submitting to hundreds of agents, that while they say they’re interested in mss. that fall between categories, I have been told countless times that they loved my work, thought it should be published, but did not know how to market it. The category: literary suspense or psychological literary suspense. If anything, I believe they are more rigid than ever in terms of categorizing, though perhaps horror/sci-fi combinations (or the like) succeed. I am also unsure how an agent would be willing to assist an author with self-publishing–they seem to completely avoid that area. FYI: I’ve had 3 fiction books published and 3 books of poetry.
This article gives me and I know other writers great hope in getting with a literary agent. I have a need to be represented by a literary agent because I am beginning to write fiction work in a series. I have just completed a sequel to an exciting series of books about the unknown legend of the highly speculative and elusive shapeshifting aswang coming out of oral tradition in the Philippines and parts of Asia.
Genre expectations? Every genre has a customary word count range, and the advent of e-books has never changed that. Also, seeing as the average paperback costs about $1.25 to print and bind, the ROI for physical production isn’t a big factor.
Do you want your agent to be limited only to publishers who only do ebooks? That would be a strange limiting strategy.