When a writer finishes writing book, his task is only partly done. If he wants anyone to read it, his next step is to get it published.
Writers looking to get published, often go to literary agents for help. The primary goal of a literary agent is to represent the writer in the presentation of their work to publishers. In return for helping to get the writer’s material published, the agent will usually get a percentage of what the work sells for.
Unfortunately, because they are working on percentages, agents usually prefer want to deal with published authors. This makes it hard for the new writer just trying to break into the business. It is a real catch -22. You need a literary agent to help get your book published, but an agent does not want to particularly take you on unless you have already had a book published.
In addition to book authors, literary agents also help to present work done by screenplay writers to film producers. These people rarely ever take manuscripts or screenplays from a writer unless that writer is well known or has already had his work produced before. So, if you are a screenwriter, basically the only realistic way of getting your work in front of a director or producer, is to hire an agent who deals with these people on a regular basis.
Literary agents are usually paid anywhere from ten to twenty percent of the amount paid to the writer. For example, if you sell a manuscript for $5.000, the literary agent may receive anywhere from $500 to $1000. Since the job of the agent is to promote you, if you are by nature, a self promoter, you may not really need an agent. Most writers, however, being introverted and introspective, do not find it easy to promote either themselves or their work. If you are this type of person, odds are you will need an agent to get your book noticed.
There are tried and proven ways of looking for a literary agent. The most prevalent method is to write a query letter and hope that it intrigues the agent enough to take you on as a client. Many new writers don’t write to agents because they feel that their letter will be ignored or tossed aside by the too-busy agent. But, query letters are how most agents get business, so they do like to receive query letters. Of course, the query letter must be well written and must convince them that your book is worth promoting, or else they will toss your letter aside.