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Quite often, the work of a literary agent in the publishing industry is relatively unknown.
For this reason, Ægitna Literary Agency aims to be completely transparency in its work within the publishing industry, to make sure that each one’s professional relations and activities are clearly defined and delimited.
First and foremost, literary agents represent authors more for their rights than for their image or communication, to ensure that contracts with publishers are executed correctly, be it in the original or foreign language. It is a question of facilitating the understanding of contracts for authors and clarifying with publishers, any points that may not be sufficiently clear. Agents can also manage adaptation rights (play, cinematographic, etc.) for books, depending on the scope entrusted to them by authors and/or publishers.
Agents also represent publishers to whom authors have assigned their rights. In such cases, the agent acts directly for the publisher and not for the author.
In this sense, agents work up and downstream in the edition of texts before publication, by bringing manuscripts to publishers in the required shape and form for direct submission, often during book fairs or any other types of professional meeting.
Once the manuscript is accepted, the agent is then responsible for negotiating the licensed rights on behalf of the author. Once the agreement is reached between all parties concerned, and the contract is signed, the agent ensures that it is carried out correctly on behalf of the authors (or publishers).
An agent’s daily routine is therefore dialogue with authors before submitting unpublished manuscripts to publishers. However, this work must not interfere with the most essential and central intellectual and editorial relationships between authors and publishers. A middleman and sometimes a mediator, the literary agent gains by being, above all, a courteous diplomat who always favors open dialogue with interlocutors, for the sake of their collaboration.
In the event of work that has already been published in its original language, but the author or publisher has retained the foreign rights (or other rights), the agent may be formally responsible for the representation of those rights in other languages, without interfering with any other prospecting that has been formally conducted previously. Indeed, it is essential that the rights of a work are not represented simultaneously by two entities, whose work covers the same territories.
Depending on the case, a literary agent can also be a support for publishing projects and PR services or an advisor for submissions to juries or to the literary press, a help for publishers and networking author for the promotion and distribution of books. These activities remain unpaid.
As for the economic dimension, the work of a literary agent is in principle, remunerated only for its results and nothing else: an agent receives a commission for the granting of licenses for works in foreign and original language ( and any other type of secondary rights or adaptation rights). Depending on the case, the commission may vary, but in general, this ranges from 10% to 15% for licenses in the original language and from 15% to 20% for licenses in foreign languages and all secondary rights and adaptation rights
A literary agent represents the rights of authors for the performance of their work through a contract signed for a fixed term, a fixed territory and a range of rights and languages specified by the contract. As a general rule, and in the great majority of literary agencies, authors remain contractual partners of their publishers. The agent ensures that the contracts are duly signed and monitored, either as a witness/facilitator or as a co-signer.
Under no circumstances can a literary agent make a publishing decision against an author’s wishes. Thus, no agent can represent the rights of an author or publisher without prior and formal agreement and/or for a work whose rights have already been transferred to a third party, except with a written agreement with the publisher or another organization that exercises these rights.
Whatever the situation, authors retain their copyright (“droit moral” in French) which in no way gives the right to modify their work without their express and formal agreement.
In the context of cooperation with literary agents, authors (or the publisher managing the rights) remain sovereign in their management of rights, and the agent therefore works on their behalf. A relationship of trust between them and the agent is therefore essential to allow long-term and harmonious relations between authors and publishers, for the good of the life of the work in any published languages.
Ægitna Literary Agency encourages authors to thoroughly document their rights before contacting a literary agent or signing a publishing or adaptation contract. There is no shortage of resources: Societé des gens de lettres, Alliance of French Literary Agents, Lynette Owen’s Selling rights, Bloomsbury’s Writers & Artists Yearbook…