Start Making a Living as a Literary Agent

Literary agents represent authors to publishers. Agents may specialize in writers of a certain literary genre or style, and such professionals must establish and maintain relationships with publishers and consumers. Most prospective literary agents are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, literature, or journalism. Literary agents may also want to join a professional organization.

Literary agents review book manuscripts, provide writers with reports and negotiate between authors and publishers on business deals. This may include managing licensing agreements, working to protect the interests of the author, controlling copyright rights, and ensuring the author receives a reasonable share of the profits from the book.

If you are interested in the fields of literature and publishing, then this might be a great career choice for you. However, you will also need to be quite business savvy and able to build professional relationships. To learn more about this career path, continue reading.

Start Making a Living as a Literary Agent 1
Photo credit:

Duties and Responsibilities

When first meeting new clients, literary agents will sit down to discuss goals and plans. Agents can then start promoting their clients while also checking their contact lists and other outlets to find the best publisher for the project. Agents need to have a good sense of what can be sold to which publishers and how to help writers edit their work in a manner that makes it more likely to sell. Once they have formed an agreement with a publisher, agents often counsel writers on their contract terms.

Average Salary of a Literary Agent

A literary agent’s fast-paced work involves a lot of understanding about books and selling them. Literary agents are usually self-employed and often work on contracts. As of May 2015, agents and business managers were paid a mean annual salary of $62,940, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, most literary agents work on commission rather than being paid a salary. Their annual income is based on the number and scale of contracts they are brokering between authors and publishers. It also depends on whether those contracts are for domestic, international, or subsidiary rights. The AAR code of ethics forbids agents from charging training or review fees.

Generally, agents receive 10 to 15%t of domestic sales. However, according to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, some seasoned agents with a good track record can earn up to 20%. On the other hand, foreign sales commissions range from 20 to 30%.

Education and Training to Become a Literary Agent

Although this profession has no formal degree requirements, at least a bachelor’s degree is held by many literary agents. A bachelor’s degree in English is a common choice of degree for prospective literary agents, as are communication, journalism, and other related fields. Participants in these courses, including literary theory and fiction writing, explore different career-related topics. Several schools also provide certificate programs through their continuing education departments for aspiring book agents.

Completing an internship during undergraduate studies may provide exposure to the field for potential literary agents. Positions at publishing houses, magazines, or other media outlets help students obtain editorial experience. An internship will help you develop relationships that could lead to other jobs. It should also be noted that gaining advanced education, such as an English master’s degree or a comparable subject, will help prospective agents develop skills in a particular area.

literary agent


Upon gaining experience and establishing a proven track record selling books, candidates can take on an extensive customer list and become a literary agent. Many agents may also be responsible for scheduling their clients’ flights and events, as well as organizing promotions and providing financial advice.

For more careers and extra income tips relating to books, click here.

Also read – Websites for Finding Bookkeeping and Accounting Jobs