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The Author / Agent Relationship: A Fresh Perspective On An Old Question

Pub Date: Mar 1, 1998 | Columnist: Mauro Salvi

"I am looking for the truly fine writer whose hope is to find a little sunny place for their work, a place where the sun never sets"

The Author/Agent Relationship: A Fresh Perspective On An Old Question

By Mauro Salvi, Literary Agent

Il Nuovo Tempo Literary Agency, Genova, Italy

As a literary agent based in Italy, I represent published and unpublished writers from throughout the world, and in particular, writers from the USA. I have often thought that misunderstandings between authors and agents stem from the writer's naivtee about the marketplace.

A literary agent can be likened to a missionary who does his job for the love of it. He or she is expected to manage and market a manuscript all the way through the publishing process, without charging any upfront fees or relying on the author's finances. The agent is expected to spend untold hours doing the very best to place the manuscript, all at his or her own expense. And that exactly as it should be.

Yet, the agent is the person most often blamed when a work doesn't sell. Many unsuccessful authors aim their disapointment at the agent. They simply cannot believe any publisher would refuse THEIR writing. Those who do manage to get published, are astonished to see their work can flop in the marketplace. But this happens more often than not.

There would be far fewer disappointments for the writer if they understood what an agent faces, on his trecherous daily mission to sell a writer's work. The current international publishing market is extremely fragmented, and bound to interests which bear little relationship, if any, to the art of fine writing. Today, the literary market is more tangled, unpredictable, contradictory and – last but not least – merciless than it has been at any time in this Century. Sometimes being a brilliant writer isn't enough to break through the steel barriers of a paranoid and disorganized marketplace.

The relevant literary movements have disappeared, along with great ideas and charismatic characters. Yet, there are still those–both agents and authors–who believe in the art.

Authors who remained true to their own ethics have become microcosms–the lonely storytellers whose only aim is to have a manuscript published promptly and at all costs. While poor ideas abound, like crazy splinters of decaying wood, the best writers have been reduced to desperately searching for any deal, no matter how bad, in order to see their pages in print. Their hope is to find a little sunny place where the sun never sets.

I suggest that these good storytellers not settle for the grave little corners of publishing; that they hold fast to their ideas and ideals. I urge them to look for agents who believe there are still sunny places in the world of words. It may take the literary author longer to run the maze of today's publishing trenches, not because of the agent, but because of the marketplace. The hope still remains that one can earn the reward in the end.

Any authentic literary agent should be proud to represent the writer who has human soul, who steeps themselves in the darkness without fear, looking for a new sun. For that's the essence of the art of writing.

When you find an agent who is willing to run the risks with you, realize the angle of the slope you are about to climb together. And be glad you have someone who's willing to help you scale the heights. It CAN be done.

Mauro Salvi is a literary agent who owns Il Nuovo Tempo, a new agency based in Genova, Italy. Writers who have been evaluated and approved for listings on Authorlink! can contact him through Authorlink! Editor Doris Booth, at dbooth@authorlink.com. Please include the reference number of your Authorlink! listing for verification.

Copyright, Authorlink! 1998