Literary agent

A literary agent (sometimes publishing agent, or writer's representative) is an agent who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers, film producers, and film studios, and assists in the sale and deal negotiation of the same. Literary agents most often represent novelists, screenwriters, and non-fiction writers. They are paid a fixed percentage (usually twenty percent on foreign sales and ten to fifteen percent for domestic sales)[1] of the proceeds of sales they negotiate on behalf of their clients.


Literary agents perform various services for authors. They connect the author's work with appropriate publishers, negotiate contracts, ensure royalty payments, and mediate problems between author and publisher.[2] Agents can help new authors get public recognition. Agents also help publishing houses and others expedite the process of review, publication, and distribution of authors' works. Many well-known, powerful, and lucrative publishing houses (such as the Big Five) are generally less open than smaller publishers to unrepresented submissions.[3] A knowledgeable agent knows the market, and can be a source of valuable career advice and guidance. Being a publishable author doesn't automatically make someone an expert on modern publishing contracts and practices—especially where television, film, or foreign rights are involved. Many authors prefer to have an agent handle such matters. This prevents straining the author's working relationship with the editor with disputes about royalty statements or late checks.

An agent can also function as an adviser, showing an author the various aspects of how to make a living writing. Literary agents often transition from jobs in other aspects of the publishing industry. Though self-publishing is becoming much more popular, literary agents still fulfill a useful role as gatekeepers to publishing houses.


Literary agencies can range in size from a single agent who represents perhaps a dozen authors, to a substantial firm with senior partners, sub-agents, specialists in areas like foreign rights or licensed merchandise tie-ins, and clients numbering in the hundreds. Most agencies, especially smaller ones, specialize to some degree. They may represent—for example—authors of science fiction, mainstream thrillers and mysteries, children's books, romance, or highly topical nonfiction. Very few agents represent short stories or poetry.

Legitimate agents and agencies in the book world are not required to be members of the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR), but according to Writer's Market listings, many agents in the United States are. To qualify for AAR membership, agents must have sold a minimum number of books and pledge to abide by a Canon of Ethics.[4] Effective professional agents often learn their trade while working for another agent, though some cross over to agenting after working as editors.


Legitimate agents do not charge reading or other upfront fees (e.g., retainers), or bill authors for most operating expenses.[5][6] They also do not offer to place work with a vanity or subsidy press.


A client typically establishes a relationship with an agent through querying, though the two may meet at a writers' conference, through a contest, or in other ways. A query is an unsolicited proposal for representation, either for a finished work or unfinished work. Various agents request different elements in a query packet, and most agencies list their specific submission requirement on their Website or in their listing in major directories. It typically begins with the author sending a query letter (1-2 pages) that explains the purpose of the work and any writing qualifications of the author. Some agencies want a synopsis or outline as part of the query. Often, the author sends the first three chapters (typically around 50 pages) of their work. For paper queries, the author must include a self-addressed stamped envelope to receive a response, though email submissions are increasingly common.

If an agency rejects a written query, they send the response—typically a form letter—in the self-addressed stamped envelope. A rejection that is not merely a form letter, or has hand-written comments (especially a message to the effect of "query me for other projects") is typically a good sign.

Notable agents

The first literary agents appeared around the year 1880 (Publishing).

See also


  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-01. Retrieved 2012-07-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Cheryl Reif. "Small vs Big Six Publishers: What's the Difference?". Cheryl Reif Writes.
  4. ^ "Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc. - Join".
  5. ^ "Preditors & Editors". Archived from the original on 2012-07-22.
  6. ^ "Questionable Practices by Literary Agents". Rachelle Gardner.

Further reading

  • Curtis, Richard (2003) How To Be Your Own Literary Agent: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book Published. ISBN 0-618-38041-8
  • Herman, Jeff (2005) Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 2006. ISBN 0-9772682-0-9.
  • Fisher, Jim (2004) Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell. ISBN 0-8093-2575-6
  • Glatzer, Jenna (2006) The Street Smart Writer. ISBN 0-9749344-4-5
  • Williams, Sheri (2004) "An Agent's Point of View". ISBN 0-9748252-5-5
  • Reiss, Fern (2007) "The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days". ISBN 1-893290-83-2

External links

Andrew Wylie (literary agent)

Andrew Wylie (born 1947 in New York City) is an American literary agent, known in the book industry as The Jackal.

David Anthony Kraft

David Anthony Kraft (born 1952) also credited simply as David Kraft, is an American comic book writer, publisher, and critic. He is primarily known for his long-running journal of interviews and criticism, Comics Interview.

Ed Victor

Edward Victor (9 September 1939 – 7 June 2017) was an American literary agent based in London for much of his career.

Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest James Ackerman (November 24, 1916 – December 4, 2008) was an American magazine editor, science fiction writer and literary agent, a founder of science fiction fandom, a leading expert on science fiction, horror, and fantasy films, and acknowledged as the world's most avid collector of genre books and movie memorabilia. He was based in Los Angeles, California.

During his career as a literary agent, Ackerman represented such science fiction authors as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, A.E. Van Vogt, Curt Siodmak, and L. Ron Hubbard. For more than seven decades, he was one of science fiction's staunchest spokesmen and promoters.

Ackerman was the editor and principal writer of the American magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, as well as an actor, from the 1950s into the 21st century. He appears in several documentaries related to this period in popular culture, like Famous Monster: Forrest J Ackerman (directed by Michael R. MacDonald and written by Ian Johnston), which premiered at the Egyptian Theatre in March 2009, during the Forrest J Ackerman tribute; The Ackermonster Chronicles! (a 2012 documentary about Ackerman by writer and filmmaker Jason V Brock); and Charles Beaumont: The Short Life of Twilight Zone's Magic Man, about the late author Charles Beaumont, a former client of The Ackerman Agency.Also called "Forry", "Uncle Forry", "The Ackermonster", "Dr. Acula", "Forjak", "4e" and "4SJ", Ackerman was central to the formation, organization and spread of science fiction fandom and a key figure in the wider cultural perception of science fiction as a literary, art, and film genre. Famous for his word play and neologisms, he coined the genre nickname "sci-fi". In 1953, he was voted "#1 Fan Personality" by the members of the World Science Fiction Society, a unique Hugo Award never granted to anyone else.He was also among the first and most outspoken advocates of Esperanto in the science fiction community.

Glenn Lord

Glenn Lord (November 17, 1931 – December 31, 2011) was an American literary agent, editor, and publisher of the prose and poetry of fellow Texan Robert E. Howard (1906–1936), and the first and most important researcher and scholar of Howard's life and writings.

Harold Ober

Harold Ober (1881–1959) was an American literary agent.

In 1907 — two years after graduating from Harvard with a degree in literature — Harold Ober became a literary agent at the Paul R. Reynolds Literary Agency. By 1908 he was representing such authors as Jack London and H. G. Wells. In 1929, he opened his own agency, Harold Ober Associates, — representing authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, Philip Wylie, Pearl Buck and Walter D. Edmonds and J. D. Salinger. Although abandoning his contract with the publishers Little, Brown, Inc., Salinger employed and entrusted Ober's agency until his death in 2010. Harold Ober died in 1959.

John Brockman (literary agent)

John Brockman (born February 16, 1941 in Boston, Massachusetts) is a literary agent and author specializing in scientific literature. He founded the Edge Foundation, an organization aimed to bring together people working at the edge of a broad range of scientific and technical fields. Referencing C.P. Snow's "two cultures", he introduced the "third culture" consisting of "those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are." He led a scientific salon for 20 years, asking a question to a host of renowned scientists every year and publishing their answers in book form, which he decided to symbolically close down in 2018.

Junkie (novel)

See Junk (novel) for the book of similar title by Melvin Burgess.Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict (originally titled Junk, later released as Junky) is a novel by American beat generation writer William S. Burroughs, published initially under the pseudonym William Lee in 1953. His first published work, it is semi-autobiographical and focuses on Burroughs' life as a drug user and dealer. It has come to be considered a seminal text on the lifestyle of heroin addicts in the early 1950s.

Larry Shaw (editor)

Lawrence Taylor Shaw (9 November 1924–1 April 1985) was a Hugo Award-winning science fiction fan, author, editor and literary agent who usually published as Larry T. Shaw.

Shaw joined a group of science fiction writers known as the Futurians during the early 1940s. From 1948 through the early 1950s, he wrote short fiction before becoming an editor for the magazines If and later Infinity Science Fiction. He published Harlan Ellison's first magazine story "Glowworm" (1955) in Infinity Science Fiction, after Ellison's first sale to EC Comics.

From 1954 to 1955 Shaw edited Rodding and Re-Styling, an automotive sports magazine.After those magazines terminated during 1958, Shaw edited monster movie magazines, automotive magazines and other material until 1963, when he began editing for Irwin Stein's company Lancer Books. He continued working as an editor until 1975, when he began work mainly as a literary agent. He received a Special Hugo Award during 1984 for lifetime achievement as an editor.Shaw was married to science fiction and Spur Award-winning Western fiction author Lee Hoffman from 1956 to 1958. He later married Noreen Kane (1930–2005). Shaw died of cancer on 1 April 1985.

My Day

My Day was a newspaper column that was written by First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt six days a week from 1935 to 1962. From 1961 until 1962, issues were only published every other day because Roosevelt became too sick to write on her usual schedule. In her column, she discussed issues such as race, women, and key events (Pearl Harbor, Prohibition, H Bomb, etc.). This column allowed Roosevelt to spread her ideas and thoughts to millions of Americans and give them a new view on the issues they faced every day. George T. Bye, Eleanor Roosevelt's literary agent, encouraged her to write the column. With this column, Roosevelt became the first First Lady to write a daily newspaper column. Roosevelt also wrote for Ladies Home Journal, McCall's, and various articles in Vogue and other women's magazines.The White House Historical Association and the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project collaborated on an online representation on some of Roosevelt's best writings with extra insights from Allida M. Black, the director of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project. The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences works to release digital and print versions of Roosevelt's political writings; it is currently working on transcribing her radio and television appearances.

Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Charles Sparks (born December 31, 1965) is an American romance novelist and screenwriter. He has published twenty novels and two non-fiction books. Several of his novels have become international bestsellers, and eleven of his romantic-drama novels have been adapted to film all with multimillion-dollar box office grosses.Sparks was born in Omaha, Nebraska and wrote his first novel, The Passing, in 1985, while a student at the University of Notre Dame. His first published work came in 1990, when he co-wrote with Billy Mills Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding, which sold approximately 50,000 copies in its first year.

In 1993, Sparks wrote his breakthrough novel The Notebook in his spare time while selling pharmaceuticals in Washington, D.C.. Two years later, his novel was discovered by literary agent Theresa Park who offered to represent him. The novel was published in October 1996 and made the New York Times best-seller list in its first week of release.

Otis Adelbert Kline

Otis Adelbert Kline (July 1, 1891 – October 24, 1946) born in Chicago, Illinois, USA, was a songwriter, an adventure novelist and literary agent during the pulp era. Much of his work first appeared in the magazine Weird Tales. Kline was an amateur orientalist and a student of Arabic, like his friend and sometime collaborator, E. Hoffmann Price.

Shawna McCarthy

Shawna Lee McCarthy (born 1954) is an American science fiction and fantasy editor and literary agent.

McCarthy graduated from Wilkes University and studied at American University.

Talent agent

A talent agent, or booking agent, is a person who finds jobs for actors, authors, film directors, musicians, models, professional athletes, writers, screenwriters, broadcast journalists, and other professionals in various entertainment or broadcast businesses but also agents. In addition, an agent defends, supports and promotes the interest of their clients. The way old talent agencies specialize, either by creating departments within the agency or developing entire agencies that primarily or wholly represent one specialty. For example, there are modeling agencies, commercial talent agencies, literary agencies, voice-over agencies, broadcast journalist agencies, sports agencies, music agencies and many more.

Having an agent is not required, but does help the artist in getting jobs (concerts, tours, movie scripts, appearances, signings, sport teams, etc.). In many cases, casting directors, or other businesses go to talent agencies to find the artists for whom they are looking. The agent is paid a percentage of the star's earnings (typically 10%). Therefore, agents are sometimes referred to as "10 percenters." Various regulations govern different types of agents. The regulations are established by artist's unions and the legal jurisdiction in which the agent operates. There are also professional associations of talent agencies.

Talent agents are considered gatekeepers to their client's careers. They have the ability to reshape and reconstruct their client's image. They are dealmakers and assist their client by orchestrating deals within the entertainment industry, more specifically in the Hollywood entertainment industry.

In California, because talent agencies are working with lucrative contracts, the agencies must be licensed under special sections of the California Labor Code, which defines an agent as a "person or corporation who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment for an artist or artists."As of 2018, the largest agencies by size are William Morris Endeavor (WME), Creative Artists Agency (CAA), United Talent Agency (UTA) and ICM Partners.

The Mays

The Mays Literary Anthology (or just The Mays) is an anthology of new writing by students from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. In 1992, when Peter Ho Davies, Adrian Woolfson, and Ron Dimant came up with the original concept for the Mays, the publication was split into two separate anthologies; one devoted to prose and the other to poetry. In 2003 the Mays became a single publication.Each year, the Mays receives hundreds of submissions from students at Oxford and Cambridge. In 2006 the Mays received a record 1,100 entries. The Editorial Committee (composed of students from both universities) review the submissions during Lent Term.

The Mays is broader in scope than most university literary projects: it is sold in bookstores and by delivery nationwide; it is distributed to every major literary agent; and each year a guest editor — usually a prominent author, poet, or artist — writes an introduction to the anthology. Previous guest editors include: Margaret Drabble and Jon Stallworthy (1992), Michael Dibdin and Seamus Heaney (1993), Stephen Fry (1994), Ted Hughes (1995), Penelope Fitzgerald (1996), Christopher Reid and Jill Paton Walsh (1997), Sebastian Faulks and J.H. Prynne (1998), Penelope Lively and John Kinsella (1999), Paul Muldoon and Lawrence Norfolk (2000), Zadie Smith and Michael Donaghy (2001), Andrew Motion and Nick Cave (2002), Ali Smith (2003), Philip Pullman (2004), Robert Macfarlane (2005), Don Paterson and Jeanette Winterson (2006), Colm Toibin (2007), Ian Patterson (2008), Patti Smith (2009), Amit Chaudhuri, Tom Raworth (2010),, Jarvis Cocker (2011), John Darnielle, Tao Lin, Toby Litt (2012), Michael Frayn, David Harsent, Tom Phillips (2013), John Fuller, Paul Farley, Ben Okri, Prajwal Parajuly, Emma Chichester Clark and Alexander Gilkes (2014), Roger Mcgough and Rupi Kaur (2016).The Mays is often noted for launching the career of novelist Zadie Smith. Her work appears in two of the short story editions (1996 and 1997). Literary agencies first took notice of Smith after seeing her story "Mrs. Begum’s Son and the Private Tutor" in the 1997 collection. Smith guest edited the Mays in 2001. Her quip "maybe in a few years this lot will have me out of a job" has become a catch phrase for the publication.

The Mays is associated with Varsity Publications Ltd, which publishes Varsity. The cost of publication is funded in part by donations from various Oxford and Cambridge colleges.

The Spectator Bird

The Spectator Bird is a 1976 novel by Wallace Stegner. It won the US National Book Award for Fiction in 1977.The book tells the story of retired literary agent Joe Allston, who receives a postcard from an old friend, a Danish countess named Astrid. Joe initially hides the postcard from his wife, Ruth. However, he soon reveals to her not only its existence but that of a diary Joe kept twenty years before, when Joe and Ruth met Astrid while visiting Denmark. The Allstons took the trip in the wake of the death of their only child, Curtis, with whom Joe fought constantly.

Stegner moves the novel's narration back and forth between the present day, as Joe struggles with the physical and emotional degradations of older age, and Denmark, where Joe and Ruth get caught up in the strange, almost Gothic world of Astrid and her ostracized aristocratic family. It transpires that Joe became romantically involved with Astrid—to what degree Ruth hopes to find out—and still has unresolved feelings about her. The novel is both an intriguing, witty observation of Americans returning to the "old country" during post-World War II Europe, as well as a deep meditation on the blessings and frustrations of a long marriage.

Thinner (novel)

Thinner is a 1984 novel by Stephen King, published under his pseudonym Richard Bachman.It was the last novel King released under the Richard Bachman pseudonym until the release of The Regulators in 1996, and the last released prior to Bachman being outed as being Stephen King's pseudonym.

The initial hardcover release of Thinner included a fake jacket photo of "Bachman". The photo is claimed to have been taken by Claudia Inez Bachman. The actual subject of the photo is Richard Manuel, the insurance agent of Kirby McCauley, who was King's literary agent.

The novel was adapted for the 1996 film Thinner.

Vampire's Kiss

Vampire's Kiss is a 1989 American black comedy film directed by Robert Bierman, written by Joseph Minion, and starring Nicolas Cage, María Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Ashley. The film tells the story of a mentally ill literary agent whose condition turns even worse when he believes he was bitten by a vampire. It was a box office failure but went on to become a cult film.

Villanova (short story)

"Villanova" (or "How I Became a Former Professional Literary Agent") is a short story by American humorist John Hodgman. It was first published in the first issue of One Story on April 1, 2002.

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