Should American Writers Submit to Canadian Agents?

A question that often circulates query forums and discussion pages is:

Should U.S. writers query Canadian agents?

Concerns include:

  • Do Canadian agents have editorial contacts in the U.S. like American agents?
  • Are there financial hoops to jump through when it comes time for money owing to the writer from a Canadian agent?
  • Do Canadian agents have the same literary interests as American agents?

These are great research questions for writers.

From an author’s perspective, it can be pretty seamless, as many Canadian agents treat the U.S. as a home territory.

The optimal skill set of agents is the same, no matter where they are located: good network, talent spotting, negotiation experience, industry knowledge, project management experience, and great communication skills. The idea that a ‘bad’ U.S. agent is better than a ‘good’ Canadian one is false. A good agent is a good agent whether they are Canadian or American. And, a good agent means that they have the optimal skill set as noted above, work in your genre, and have a network that encompasses the territory of your work. I.e. If you are an American writer who wrote a book about a mystery set in Florida, you want the book submitted to U.S. editors which Canadian or American agents can do. 

In today’s publishing scene agents work via email and phone most of the time. So being in the same city as editors is not a prerequisite for the job. Agents travel to conferences and expos to meet editors so they understand their editorial interests and strengthen their network. In addition, most often agents never meet their clients face-to-face because they are in difference places. (This paragraph applies to American agents not located in NYC as well.)

Our Canadian agency works with a majority of American writers, especially in fiction. Our networks in the U.S. are as strong as they are in Canada. Also, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of my U.S. clients because we aren’t that far from the border.

Financially, our U.S. clients do not have to worry about losing money in currency conversions because we are Canadian based. An American author whose work is sold to an American publisher will be paid in U.S. dollars (minus the standard 15% agent commission of course), as they are not forced to jump through cumbersome tax regulations.

In terms of agents’ interests, Canadian agents traditionally do less commercial fiction, but that is rapidly changing. When perusing agency webpages, Publishers Marketplace, or agent Twitter feeds you’ll see that many Canadian agents are looking for all genres, not only Canadian literary fiction. All agents are looking for quality writing, a good hook, and an author that wants a career, no matter where they are from.

The bottom line: find an agent that can champion your work, that believes in your career, and has success making deals in your genre no matter whether the agent is from New York, London, Toronto or anywhere in between.

Further Reading:

Canadian agent Samantha Haywood on Canadian vs. American agents 

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

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