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How to become a literary agent is explained here with information about a book agent salary, education, and career path. This article about becoming a book agent also includes information about publishing agent jobs. It’s part of our free 15-Part Guide About How to Get a Book Agent.

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Group of book agents in suits discussing how to become a literary agent

Literary Agent Salary

What is a literary agent salary? Most author representatives make most–or all–their money via commission from selling books. However, some book agents with large literary agencies receive a salary as well.

In some cases, literary agencies pay a book agent salary. When an author representative receives a publishing agent salary, it’s usually because the book agent has agreed to accept additional responsibilities beyond selling books.

Since most literary agent pay is the result of author representatives selling books and receiving a commission, book agent income varies considerably. Book agent income also varies from year to year, as does the annual salary of all salespeople.

New book agents can earn nothing, or next to nothing, unless and until they start selling books. The most successful publishing agents can earn six figures. And, in rare cases, author representatives can earn more than $1,000,000 per year.

Click here for more details about literary agent salary.

Literary Agent Education

Literary agent education requirements are surprisingly few. At least in the traditional sense such as degrees, formal training, certification, or licensing. However, every book agent who’s going to be successful must be well read and knowledgeable about how the publishing industry works.

Do You Need to Go to College to Be a Literary Agent? – How to Become a Literary Agent

Do you need to go to college to be a literary agent? No. But if you want to become a book agent at a literary agency vs becoming an independent book agent, you’ll likely be expected to have a college degree. Most white-collar job workplaces expect or require applicants to be college graduates with a bachelor’s degree.

What Education Do You Need to Be a Literary Agent? – How to Become a Literary Agent

What education to you need to be a literary agent? Though you don’t need a college degree to become a literary agent, you must be knowledgeable about the type(s) of books you plan to represent. All other information and skills you need to acquire and develop can be learned as you’re becoming a book agent.

Can Anyone Be a Literary Agent? – How to Become a Literary Agent

Can anyone be a literary agent? Yes. However, they must understand what a book agent does and how a publishing agent works. Author representatives must also be able to create relationships with book publishers they hope to sell books to. And anyone who wants to become a publishing agent must be a fast reader with excellent writing and speaking skills.

Literary Agent Career Path – Becoming a Book Agent

Every literary agent career path is different. However, most book agents learn how author representatives work by serving in one or more “apprentice” positions prior to becoming book agents: literary agent reader, intern, assistant, or associate book agent.

What do you need to know about how to become a literary agent? Those who want to become a literary agent don’t need to do all the things listed above before they become book agents. But most author representatives spend at least six months doing one or more of those things on their path to becoming a book agent.

The best book agent career path is the one that allows an aspiring author representative to learn as quickly as possible and make as many connections as possible. That can happen serving in any of the positions listed above. Most of those positions require the up-and-coming publishing agent to work in an office, but there are also remote work opportunities.

Literary Agent Jobs – How to Become a Literary Agent

Publishing agent jobs are available for those who are well read and able to explain why a manuscript is good or how to improve it. Listed here are book agent jobs that pay a salary, as well as those that are commission-based.

  • Literary Agent Reader
  • Book Agent Intern
  • Literary Agent Assistant
  • Associate Literary Agent
  • Literary Agent
  • Subsidiary Rights Director
  • Subsidiary Rights Assistant
  • Foreign Rights Assistant

Below you’ll find more information about how to become a literary agent, the book agent jobs above, and where to find literary agent jobs.

Literary Agent Reader Jobs – How to Become a Book Agent

Open positions for literary agent reader jobs, including remote book agent reader jobs, require reading and reviewing manuscripts. Publishing agent readers must write a report indicating why they believe a book should–or shouldn’t–be represented.

Literary Agent Internships – How to Become a Publishing Agent

Open positions for literary agent internships, including remote book agent internships, allow prospective publishing agents to learn about the book industry in a hands-on way. Book agent interns are educated about the publishing industry while doing meaningful work: evaluating query letters and manuscripts, managing social media, communicating with authors, etc.

Literary Agent Assistant Jobs – How to Become a Book Agent

Open positions for literary agent assistant jobs, including remote publishing agent assistant positions, are for those with experience serving as literary agency readers and/or interns. They’re expected to be somewhat knowledgeable, efficient, and independent.

Associate Literary Agent – How to Become a Publishing Agent

Open positions for associate book agents, including remote associate publishing agent positions, require the most publishing experience. While serving as an associate, an aspiring publishing agent can represent clients under close supervision while assisting a senior book agent(s).

Independent Literary Agent – Becoming a Book Agent

When an aspiring book agent says they want to know how to become an independent literary agent, it means they don’t want to work at a large literary agency. Instead, they want to work alone or at a smaller boutique literary agency.

The easiest and best way to become an independent book agent is to work at a literary agency first. It would be virtually impossible to become a successful author representative without first gaining experience working at a literary agency. It wouldn’t matter if the agent’s goal was to work alone at a one-person company or at a small literary agency.

Once an aspiring author representative has experience working with a successful literary agency, they have the potential to serve as a book agent. At that point, they will still benefit from–and possibly need–supervision or mentoring from a more senior agent. However, the new author representative will also be able to operate independently.

The Best Place to Find Literary Agent Jobs – How to Become a Literary Agent

There are many places to find book agent jobs, listed here. Many people say the best place to find literary agent jobs is PublishersMarketplace.com, built on the foundation of Publishers Lunch, which is read by 40,000 publishing industry insiders.

  1. PublishersMarketplace.com
  2. PublishersWeekly.com
  3. Bookjobs.com
  4. Shelf-Awareness.com
  5. Association of University Presses
  6. LinkedIn.com
  7. ZipRecruiter.com
  8. SimplyHired.com
  9. Indeed.com
  10. GlassDoor.com

PublishersMarketplace.com has a book agent jobs database that allows job seekers to do free job searches. And, in addition to literary agent jobs, they list other publishing jobs. For example, jobs in the areas of advertising, design, book editing, sales, marketing, production, publicity, operations, and information technology.

This article about how to become a literary agent was written by former book agent turned author coach Mark Malatesta, creator of The Directory of Literary Agents, host of Ask a Publishing Agent, and founder of Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author.

Mark has helped hundreds of authors get offers from literary agents and/or traditional publishers. Writers of all Book Genres have used our Literary Agent Advice coaching/consulting to get Top Literary Agents at the Best Literary Agencies on our List of Book Agents.

How to Become a Literary Agent – Next Steps

Now that you know how to become a literary agent, and we’ve explored topics such as book agent education, book agent salary, book agent jobs, and the typical book agent career path, click here to:

  1. See the next part of this guide to getting a book agent called How to Find a Literary Agent.
  2. Visit our Ask a Publishing Agent page, where you’ll find a complete list of questions and answers about getting a book agent.

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How I Got My Book Agent

Successful Authors

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Thanks in part to your query letter, manuscript suggestions, and support prioritizing agents, I received multiple offers from agents. Within two weeks of sending out the first query, I knew who I was going to sign with. I value our friendship.

N E L S O N . J O H N S O N

NY Times bestselling author of Boardwalk Empire, produced by Martin Scorsese for HBO, and Darrow's Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America's Most Famous Trial Lawyer

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After following your advice, my book was acquired, the prestigious PW gave it a great review, and Time Magazine asked for an excerpt. Thank you for believing in my book, and for helping me share the surprising truth about women’s most popular body part!

L E S L I E . L E H R

Author of A Boob's Life: How America's Obsession Shaped Me―and You, published by Pegasus Books, distributed by Simon & Schuster and now in development for a TV series by Salma Hayek for HBO Max

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Fine Print Lit got publishers bidding against each other [for my book]. I ended up signing a contract with Thomas Nelson (an imprint of Harper Collins) for what I’ve been told by several people is a very large advance. What cloud is higher than 9?

S C O T T . L E R E T T E

Author of The Unbreakable Boy (Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins), adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton

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AHHH! OMG, it happened! You helped me get three offers for representation from top literary agents! A short time later I signed a publishing contract. After that, my agent sold my next book. I’m in heaven!

M I R I . L E S H E M . P E L L Y

Author/illustrator of Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper (Penguin Books/Philomel), Scribble & Author (Kane Miller), and other children’s picture books

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Photo of Mark Malatesta - Former Literary Agent MARK MALATESTA is a former literary agent turned author coach. Mark now helps authors of all genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children's books) get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals through his company Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author. Mark's authors have gotten six-figure book deals, been on the NYT bestseller list, and published with houses such as Random House, Scholastic, and Thomas Nelson. Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta and see Mark Malatesta Reviews.
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Enter your first name and email address for instant access to all our information about how to get a literary agent. Our resources for finding and getting a publishing agent include:

  • The official Directory of Book Agents
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  • Our popular Book Genre Dictionary
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