How to Become a Literary Agent

Literary Agent Key Stats
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 10%

Literary Agents are professionals who are experienced in helping the authors they represent get published.

With their networking and business skills, these professionals are highly knowledgeable in knowing what publishing companies seek in a writer and what types of works will sell.

Individuals who want to become a Literary Agent must not only have a passion for the written word, but also have business and networking skills to understand the decision makers in this highly competitive market.

Education Requirements to Become a Literary Agent

There are no exact requirements to become a Literary Agent, but there are some things an individual can do to strengthen their background.

Technically, an individual who chooses to become a Literary Agent has already met the first requirement to enter this profession; many sources suggest Literary Agents do not need to become certified or complete school in order to enter this profession.

However, traditional literary agencies will seek individuals who have a postsecondary degree and experience in the publishing industry.

Because Literary Agents often read authors written material, they will need an extensive background literary works and writings.

Some helpful bachelor’s degrees include English, journalism, writing and literature.

This will help individuals gain an understanding in literature, spelling, grammar and the many types of literary work.

Because Literary Agents help writers get their works published, some basic skills in sales and business will help with pitching manuscripts to publishers.

Individuals pursuing a career with an established literary agency will benefit from gaining experience in the industry before seeking a position as a Literary Agent.

Individuals may seek an entry level position after earning their bachelor’s degree in order to gain experience in the industry.

Some careers that will individuals gain experience include: publishing, publisher sales representative, book publicist, book editor, literary agency, publicity, marketing or sales.

Once an individual has experience in the publishing industry, they can start applying with established literary agencies that typically have connections within the industry.

Some personal characteristics that will help individuals succeed in this profession include having business acumen, networking skills, connections within the publishing industry, sales skills and being persistent as this profession can cause a lot of professionals to hear the answer “no.”

Literary Agent Job Description

Literary Agents are professionals who have several years of experience in the publishing industry.

They are the person who connects their clients, book writers, to publishing agencies.

They represent their clients and shop their written works to the right publisher who will ultimately publish their books and sell it to book lovers across the world.

Literary Agents will read a variety of manuscripts to decide which author to represent during the negotiation process.

In addition, the will make suggestions to authors to improve their work so it can be more marketable.

For authors they represent, they will negotiate with publishing firms to determine the best deal between publishers and authors.

Some important business aspects a Literary Agent will oversee include: the pay an author will receive from book profits, protecting the author’s rights in regards to book royalties, and monitor licensing agreements.

Literary Agent Salary and Career Path

Exact wages for Literary Agents and other managers heavily depends on the amount of clients they represent and their overall success as a published writer.

Some Literary Agents can make as little as $25,000 a year, with the average salary being $88,620 per year.

Exact wages also depend on the location a Literary Agent works in and commission they receive.

On average, Literary Agents typically receive 15 percent commission on the sales of books.

The job outlook for media and communications professionals, which includes Literary Agents, is expected to grow by 8 percent through the year 2022.

This job growth is considered to grow at a slower than average rate when compared to other professions.

This growth is attributed to the decrease in demand for print media, including printed books, but will also likely be impacted by the demand for digital books.

Individuals who are interested in a career as a Literary Agent will have a passion for books and representing the best interests of the authors they represent.

This career can be a stimulating one with the various components involved including the knowledge business and negotiating skills, reading manuscripts, working with authors and networking to expand their reach.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Librarians, Curators, and Archivists, OCC Code 25-4000, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a literary agent do?

The main job of a literary agent is to find publishers for the writers that they are representing.

In a nutshell, a literary agent is a middle person between publishers and authors; some publishers refuse to accept manuscripts that are not submitted by agents.

The typical responsibilities of a literary agent usually include negotiating contracts on the writer’s behalf; planning and managing a writer’s career (in some cases); managing contracts, sales, production, reproduction, and publication; staying up-to-date with the current market and trends; maintaining good contacts in the industry, and so on.

There are literary agents that can look after a lot of writers, while others focus on specific genres or areas (fiction, memoir, poetry…).

How much do literary agents make?

On average, a literary agent can make a little more than $56.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $50.000 and 70.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the location, the clients, and so on.

Literary agents that work in the District of Columbia and New York, for example, have the highest average salaries.

How much does it cost to become a literary agent?

There are no educational or licensing requirements to become a literary agent.

However, the majority of professionals have a bachelor’s degree in publishing, business, marketing or a related field.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

The best way to gain the necessary knowledge is by becoming an intern or getting any job in publishing.

A lot of employers offer on-the-job training and do not have specific educational requirements for an entry-level position (except for a high school diploma).

What is the demand for literary agents?

Between 2018 and 2028, the literary agent job market is expected to grow by 10%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a bit faster than the average for all occupations in the United States.

The future demand for literary agents might be influenced by some changes in the industry (like the increase in the number of self-publishing authors and digital books).

How long does it take to become a literary agent?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

You should consider seeking an internship during your last years in university to get that on-job experience as the majority of clients prefer the candidates to have at least a few years of experience in publishing.

Aspiring literary agents would have to spend a lot of time on establishing broad social networks and good contacts throughout publishing.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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