After being a literary agent for going on nine years, I have seen some great works with great authors, great works with shoddy authors, and not-so-great works with fantastic authors. Which would I prefer? The first, of course, although that is rare. Most writers must be molded and honed, creating people and works you can be proud of. Then there are exemplary writers whose quality wanes or good authors who learn from mistakes and create books like Monet paintings; timeless. The latter are much more appealing and shine.
As the publishing industry evolves, as it has exponentially in the past twenty years, so does the agenting role and model. It used to be that agents could work strictly for commission and actually put food on the table. That was when the quality and quantity of books were rationed, meaning you got more for the money. With self-publishing, a myriad of micro publishers, and small houses that are staying afloat while bailing, agents are no longer able to wait for the check that is six to eighteen months coming; no longer able to work tirelessly for a writer who expects everything for nothing. Who in this world works for free? Philanthropists and volunteers, neither of which are agents.
Loiacono Literary Agency has changed its company model/policy in step with the times. LLA is a comprehensive agency that takes writers and turns them into published authors; sometimes upwards of four months to take a manuscript from raw to well-done, then years to sell it. The competition is vast, so it must stand out as a sunny banner in a sea of gray.
It all begins in the mind of the author; their concept and ability to put into words, articulately and with flare, a story that draws you into the rabbit hole and does not allow you to escape until the final word, leaving you breathless and wanting more. The manuscript must be formatted, polished, and proofed by the writer and hopefully someone with skills in content, grammar, and punctuation. By the time it is submitted to an agency, it should be glowing. Yet, this is not always the case. If it was, our job would be so much easier.
That is where having an agent who is passionate about the job is essential. I have read of agents who reject great manuscripts because they are not formatted right, in the wrong font, or don’t have a title page. Poof! Gone! Deleted! Not at LLA. We review submissions on every level, beginning with the query. Is it the genre we are interested in? How many words? Is the subject unique? If not, is the story? Is the writing top-notch? Is the writer professional in presentation? Have they done their homework? Have they submitted per the LLA Submission Guidelines? Have they submitted in a blast email? How seasoned is the writer? How long has it been since they have had anything published, if ever? So much relevancy! So much to take into consideration.!
With endless energy, resources, time, and unwavering diligence, the agents at LLA—Johnnie Bernhard, Linda Kasten, and myself—spend countless hours on manuscripts in hopes of landing a contract for the writer. Then when a publisher makes an offer, we go over the contract in finite detail, negotiating if it is negotiable, always asking for the highest percentage possible, with the best benefits we can get. We work closely with the author and the publisher to ensure a seamless editing and publishing process. When it is time for launch, we crack that bottle of champagne on the bow of that book and start the marketing and promoting. As long as the book is in print, we keep moving forward, striving for bigger sales. It is never ending. One of my authors once said it was akin to spinning plates; you keep adding and adding and spinning and spinning.
There isn’t a step that we do not take alongside the author. The last three words are so important: alongside the author. Without an author’s positive attitude, cooperation, faith, work ethic, resourcefulness, motivation, and persistence, the book will not go far, even with one of the top five publishers. It is a joint effort on all fronts—author, agent, and publisher.
So when you submit to LLA, know you are getting so much more than an agent. You are entering a relationship with someone who has your best interest at heart. Your success is our success. We don’t contract a manuscript and say, “Next!” We do take on more, but we keep your plate(s) spinning as a member of the LLA family of authors.
I hope everyone has a joyous and prosperous New Year!
- Jeanie Loiacono, President, Loiacono Literary Agency