Q: What does a literary agency mean when it requests a “hard copy”?
A: While many terms in the literary world can be metaphorical or abstract, the phrase “hard copy” means exactly what it says—the agent wants a hard copy, or printed version, of your work. (Thankfully it's not metaphorical, because that term sounds kind of dirty.)
Twenty years ago, everything was printed out and sent via postal mail. But with the emergence of e-mail, editors and agents adopted the term to avoid confusion in their submission process. So when you see “hard copy” in their guidelines, start warming up your printer.