Can you tell me if there are any literary agents who represent nonfiction writers looking to publish magazine articles, and if so, where I might find one? —Ted C.
Agents don’t typically represent freelance writers. Why not, you ask? Consider their business model: Agents will get behind any body of work they believe in that has the potential to generate a substantial income. Agents make their living by earning a percentage of what their clients make. So the wages of freelancing—generally consisting of irregular one-time payments for short articles—don’t generate enough dough to entice agents to get in the game.
Freelance writing for magazines is a do-it-yourself endeavor, where you need to research, query and make connections on your own. This is often more challenging than the writing itself, so even if agents did represent freelancers, they’d likely want a bigger chunk of the paycheck for all this work. And, considering those paychecks are mirroring the ever-shrinking editorial budgets of magazines, this would be impractical for a freelance writer.
I’m sure it’s possible that somewhere in this vast universe exists a person or two who may agent freelance magazine writers, though I don’t know of any. If you happen to find one, keep in mind that there are no industry standards for this type of an agent to abide by, so he’d have free rein to play by his own rules. Consider also that magazine editors are accustomed to working with their contributors directly and may not be open to submissions through an agent. So proceed cautiously and be sure you know exactly what you’re getting into.