This step-by-step, 15-part guide about getting a literary agent explains how to get a literary agent. It reveals the role of book agents, the chances of getting a book agent, how to find book agents, and what authors need to know about book agent submissions. It also reveals what happens after you get a publishing agent.
The information in this guide about how to get a publishing agent has helped authors of all book genres–fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books–get publishing agents and book deals. Click here to see How I Got My Literary Agent case studies. Authors at all stages of development, both new and established writers, in the U.S. and abroad, have used this guide to get literary agents.
Notable writers we’ve coached and consulted include Nelson Johnson, author of the NY Times bestselling book Boardwalk Empire, adapted for HBO and produced by Martin Scorsese; Scott LeRette, author of The Unbreakable Boy (Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson), adapted for feature film with Lionsgate Entertainment starring Zachary Levi and Patricia Heaton; and Leslie Lehr, author of A Boob’s Life, now being developed by Salma Hayek for an HBO Max TV series.
How to Get a Literary Agent – FAQ
- What Is a Book Agent?
- When Should You Get a Book Agent?
- Odds of Getting a Book Agent?
- How Long Does It Take to Get a Book Agent?
- How Much Does a Book Agent Cost?
- How Much Do Authors Make?
- Becoming a Literary Agent
- How to Find a Literary Agent
- Literary Agent Submissions
- How to Get a Book Agent for Fiction
- How to Get a Book Agent for Nonfiction
- How to Get a Book Agent for Children’s Books
- Getting a Book Agent after Self-Publishing
- Offer of Representation From a Book Agent
- What Happens After You Get a Book Agent?
1. What Is a Literary Agent?
Literary agents (also known as “book agents,” “publishing agents,” and “author representatives”) are essentially matchmakers who pair authors and their books with traditional publishers. Literary agents represent authors of all genres or categories: fiction books, nonfiction books, and children’s books. However, what book agents do also varies.
See more about what publishing agents do, how they work, and who they are at What Is a Literary Agent? in this how to get a literary agent guide.
2. When Should You Get a Book Agent?
Working with a publishing agent gives an author the best chance of reaching the biggest audience. Authors who want their books published by traditional publishers such as Random House, Scholastic, or Thomas Nelson need to know how to get a literary agent. Major publishers require all books be submitted via literary agents.
See more at When Should You Get a Book Agent?
3. Odds of Getting a Literary Agent?
The odds of getting a literary agent are 1 in 6,000. However, there are many things aspiring authors can do to increase their chances of getting a book agent. Book authors who are willing to get educated and do what it takes can give themselves a competitive advantage.
See more here about the Odds of Getting a Literary Agent, and see how you can increase your chances of getting representation.
4. How Long Does It Take to Get a Book Agent?
How long it takes to get a publishing agent depends on two things. First is the time it takes a book author to prepare everything needed to query publishing agents. Second is the time it takes an author to send out enough queries to get an offer for representation.
The time it takes to send out enough queries to get an offer(s) for representation is easy to calculate. The steps involved are the same for every author. No matter what type of books you write, you can get a book agent in 30 days or less–or it can take up to a year or longer. In most cases, it takes longer than one month. However, there’s no reason for it to take longer than a year to query every publishing agent who represents your type of book.
See more at How Long Does It Take to Get a Book Agent?
5. How Much Does a Literary Agent Cost?
Legitimate book agents only get paid via literary agent commission. In other words, publishing agents only make money when their authors make money. Most author representatives don’t charge additional fees, except sometimes a small amount deducted from author royalties to cover phone, photocopying, courier costs, etc.
See more at How Much Does a Literary Agent Cost?
7. Becoming a Literary Agent
Becoming a literary agent requires a great deal of book knowledge, as well as relationships with publishers who buy books. It also requires learning on the job via serving as a book agent reader, publishing agent intern, literary agent assistant, and/or literary agent associate.
See more at How to Become a Literary Agent.
8. How to Find a Literary Agent
Finding a publishing agent is a two-step process. The first step is understanding what to look for in a book agent, based on your unique situation. The second step is learning the best way to research publishing agents so you can find the most successful literary agents, who are the most likely to represent your type of book.
See more at How to Find a Literary Agent.
9. Literary Agent Submissions
Before you submit your book to literary agents, make sure you follow these guidelines about what to submit and how to submit it. You also need to know how many book agents to query, the best times to submit, how long to wait to hear back, how to follow up, how to interpret rejections letters, and how to revise and resubmit.
See more at Literary Agent Submissions.
10. How to Get a Literary Agent for Fiction
Guidelines about how to get a publishing agent for fiction are different than guidelines about how to get a publishing agent for nonfiction or children’s books. Novelists seeking book agents must follow the appropriate fiction submission requirements, and they must only query fiction literary agents seeking new writers.
See more at How to Get a Book Agent for Fiction.
11. How to Get a Literary Agent for Nonfiction
Guidelines about how to get an author representative for a nonfiction book are different than guidelines about how to get an author representative for fiction or kids’ books. Nonfiction authors must categorize their books correctly, but they must also adhere to each literary agent’s unique submission and author platform requirements.
See more at How to Get a Book Agent for Nonfiction.
12. How to Get a Literary Agent for Children’s Books
Guidelines about how to get a publishing agent for kids’ books are different than guidelines about how to get a publishing agent for adult fiction or nonfiction. Children’s book authors must be aware of special considerations regarding word count, age appropriateness, submission material, and book genre classifications.
See more at How to Get a Publishing Agent for Children’s Books.
13. Getting a Literary Agent After Self-Publishing
Getting a book agent after self-publishing is possible, though some author representatives refuse to consider previously published books. It is more challenging to get literary agents for previously self-published books, but not impossible. In fact, some book agents specialize in finding publishers for self-published books.
See more at Getting a Literary Agent After Self-Publishing.
14. Offer of Representation from a Literary Agent
When you get an offer of representation from a publishing agent, you need to prepare for your first meeting. You also need to prepare for the possibility of getting multiple offers. You need to know which questions to ask, prepare to answer questions you’ll be asked, and prepare to review your literary agent contract.
See more at Offer of Representation from a Literary Agent.
15. What Happens After You Get a publishing Agent?
Understanding what happens after you get a book agent is as important as learning how to get a book agent. Not all author representatives handle the author/agent relationship the same way. Follow these guidelines to create a positive and productive relationship with your book agent.
See more at What Happens After You Get a Book Agent?
This guide about how to get a literary agent was created by former publishing agent turned author coach Mark Malatesta, creator of The Directory of Literary Agents, host of Ask a Book Agent, and founder of Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author.
Mark has helped hundreds of writers get offers from book agents and/or traditional publishers. Authors of all Book Genres have used our Literary Agent Advice coaching/consulting to get the Best Literary Agents at the Top Literary Agencies on our List of Literary Agents.
How to Get a Literary Agent – Next Steps
Now that you’ve read the introduction to our 15-part guide about how to get a literary agent:
- Click here to see the first part of this guide to getting a book agent called What Is a Literary Agent?
- Scroll below to submit your question about how to get a book publishing agent.
Ask a Question
How to Get a Literary Agent
If you have a question about how to get a literary agent that isn’t answered on our website, post it below. Visit our Ask a Literary Agent page first to make sure your question isn’t answered there.
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If you want to remain anonymous, type “Anonymous” in the name field. You’ll receive an email when a reply has been posted (usually within 48 hours). We look forward to helping you get a book agent.
How can an author safeguard material submitted to a lit agent; i.e., be sure material turned down isn’t later used as agent’s original product?
Literary agents don’t typically do things like that, but it never hurts to copyright your work.
See here: https://literary-agents.com/how-to-copyright-a-book/.
And if your goal is to get a literary agent, you’ll also find these things helpful, if you haven’t seen or used them yet:
How to Get a Literary Agent (NEW 15-Part Guide)
Literary Agent Database (Directory of Literary Agents)
Literary Agent Advice (1-on-1 Coaching/Consulting)
If you want/need help with anything else, you can post here at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/.
I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.
All my best,
The Bestselling Author
Literary Agent Undercover