Expand mobile version menu

Literary Agent

What They Do

Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes Career Video

Insider Info

Literary agents market and sell a book to a publisher. They negotiate a contract with them in exchange for a share of a book's royalties (the money a book earns through sales) and advance (the amount a publisher pays up front for a book).

Agents help authors find a home for their books at publishing houses. An author generally approaches an agent, but in some instances, a literary agent will seek out new talent.

Literary agents review a client's work, advise the author on its marketability and come up with a possible strategy for selling it. They often offer editorial guidance and manuscript suggestions to the author.

They also introduce clients to new contacts and help the author understand current trends in the publishing market. Once a deal has been struck and the literary agent finds a publisher for the book, the agent collects funds on the author's behalf.

Once a publisher is found, a literary agent negotiates a fair contract and licensing agreements and reviews royalty statements with the author. "We do a lot of the background work for authors," says Wendy Keller, a literary agent in California.

Once the book is in print, the literary agent continues to monitor the licensee or publisher's marketing of the book.

The publishing community works in office settings, sometimes at large agency firms. Other agents, usually once they have learned the trade at a larger agency, will branch out and become self-employed.

At a Glance

Sell books to publishers and then negotiate contracts

  • Part of this job involves offering editorial guidance
  • You have to help authors understand publishing trends
  • A background in commerce and English is ideal