This Site is Secure

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.

Book agent in brown suit invites visitors to use 15-part guide to Get a Literary 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.

Group of book agents in suits with sign that says, "How To Get a Literary 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?

6. How Much Do Authors Make?

How much authors make depends on how they publish, and how well. Authors published by major publishers usually make more than those who-self-publish. Much more. They receive a “book advance” that’s often tens of thousands of dollars–sometimes six figures or more. And they receive “royalties,” a percentage of all book-related income, usually twice a year.

See more at How Much Do Authors Make?

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:

  1. Click here to see the first part of this guide to getting a book agent called What Is a Literary Agent?
  2. 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.

Due to time constraints, we can’t answer questions that have already been answered. Please make your question clear and concise, since the submission form below is limited to 500 characters.

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.

22 Comments

  1. Alan Goldman

    I have submitted my manuscript to about 20 agents about 6 months ago, had 2 immediate refusals, but have not heard anything from anyone else. Should I continue to submit or wait a bit longer to see if there is any interest in my book?

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Alan,

      You should send a new batch/round of queries every two months or so.

      Use these no-cost resources:

      How to Get a Literary Agent (NEW 15-Part Guide)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/how-to-get-a-literary-agent/

      Literary Agent Database (Directory of Literary Agents)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/literary-agent-database/

      And…

      If you want/need help with anything else, you can post on my new “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/. I’ll always do what I can to point you in the right direction. And, on that same page, you’ll find my answers to the questions authors ask me most.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  2. Brian Mosera

    Hi mark,

    I came across a release while researching agents and was wondering if this is typical, especially paragraph 5 (partially pasted below(. Do you have any insight on what seems to be a license to steal?

    InkWell Management and/or any of its clients may use without obligation to me any material which is not legally protected; (iv) InkWell Management and/or any of its clients may have created, may create, or may otherwise have access to materials, ideas, and creative works which may be similar or identical to the Material with regard to theme, motif, plots, characters, formats, or other attributes; and (v) I shall not be entitled to any compensation

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Brian,

      I know it doesn’t sound good, but it’s fairly common and not malicious.

      This article might help: https://literary-agents.com/nondisclosure-agreement-nda/.

      And..

      If you want/need help with anything else, you can post on my “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/. I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction. And, on that same page, you’ll find my answers to the questions authors ask me most.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
      • Brian Mosera

        Thank you, Mark. That paragraph raised concern as I’ve never come across it previously. I appreciate your reply and I’ll look at the NDA link you provided.

        Reply
        • Literary Agent News

          Hi Brian,

          You bet, and have a great week.

          All my best,

          – Mark

          Mark Malatesta
          https://markmalatesta.com
          The Bestselling Author
          https://thebestsellingauthor.com
          Literary Agent Undercover
          https://literary-agents.com

          Reply
  3. Jim Geoghan

    Jim Geoghan – Bio

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Jim,

      I saw you posted bio material on my website, but no note or question. I’m happy to help somehow if possible. To that end, here are some links you’ll likely find helpful if your goal is to get a literary agent:

      How to Get a Literary Agent (15-Part Guide)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/how-to-get-a-literary-agent/

      Literary Agent Database (Directory of Literary Agents)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/literary-agent-database/

      And..

      If you want/need help with anything else, you can post on my “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/. I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction. And, on that same page, you’ll find my answers to the questions authors ask me most.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  4. BOB BOOKER

    I was with the Morris Office in NY for a number of years (in fact my office BOB BOOKER PRODUCTIONS, INC. was across the street (55th) from you then. Moved to L.A. remained with WMA for years, went to Gersh, then Bernie Brillstein (deceased) would like to return to WMA in CA. My TV credits with WGA more than 300 prime-time network credits, 5 books, 22 Comedy Albums, 4 Grammies, 2 Emmys, 2 Library of Congress Awards, & I have a new book ready for print. BOB BOOKER 831-521-9465

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Bob,

      Nice to meet you, and impressive background. How can I help? Seems like you might be looking for an agent for your new book. If that’s the case, you might find the following helpful:

      How to Get a Literary Agent (NEW 15-Part Guide)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/how-to-get-a-literary-agent/

      Literary Agent Database (Directory of Literary Agents)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/literary-agent-database/

      Lastly…

      If you want/need help with anything else, you can post on my new “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/. I’ll always do what I can to point you in the right direction. And, on that same page, you’ll find my answers to the questions authors ask me most.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  5. james meadows

    I have an incredible true story to tell. During the past 12 years my book has been published twice, printed twice, and I’ve now lost about $3000.
    Therefore, obviously I need a literary agent who is honest, and I have no clue where to find one. Suggestions?

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi James,

      Here are some links you’ll find helpful:

      How to Get a Literary Agent (15-Part Guide)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/how-to-get-a-literary-agent/

      Literary Agent Database (Directory of Literary Agents)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/literary-agent-database/

      And..

      If you want/need help with anything else, you can post on my “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/. I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction. And, on that same page, you’ll find my answers to the questions authors ask me most.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  6. Pamela

    Will a Literary Agent help get my books on bookstore book shelves?

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Pamela,

      Yes, if you get a literary agent and your book agent is able to sell your book a well-known publisher, your book will end up in bookstores.

      If you want more information about how to get a literary agent, here are some links you’ll likely find helpful:

      How to Get a Literary Agent (15-Part Guide)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/how-to-get-a-literary-agent/

      Literary Agent Database (Directory of Literary Agents)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/literary-agent-database/

      How I Got My Literary Agent (Success Stories)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/how-i-got-my-literary-agent/

      Literary Agent Advice (1-on-1 Coaching/Consulting)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/literary-agent-advice/

      And..

      If you want/need help with anything else, you can post on my “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/. I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction. And, on that same page, you’ll find my answers to the questions authors ask me most.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  7. L.A. Stephenson

    My novels are speculative fiction with anti-religious, science fiction, and paranormal/supernatural themes and plot lines.
    I have a feeling that most agents I’ve queried thus far, reject the submission because “Jesus isn’t the son of God, rather an alien-human from a parallel universe” theme.

    Agents handling the likes of Dan Brown, Lee Childs, Dean Koontz or A.G. Riddle aren’t likely to take on an unknown writer. What can I look for in an agent specifically because of this bias?

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi L.A.,

      I know it’s not easy, but if you use our Directory of Literary Agents, or any other, you’ll find many agents, including established ones, seeking new clients for those genres. Those who say they only want Christian books, of course, you shouldn’t query.

      If you want more information about how to get a literary agent, here are some links you’ll likely find helpful:

      How to Get a Literary Agent (15-Part Guide)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/how-to-get-a-literary-agent/

      Literary Agent Database (Directory of Literary Agents)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/literary-agent-database/

      How I Got My Literary Agent (Success Stories)
      https://getaliteraryagent.com/how-i-got-my-literary-agent/

      And..

      If you want/need help with anything else, you can post on my “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/. I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction. And, on that same page, you’ll find my answers to the questions authors ask me most.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 available characters remaining

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Get free instant access to the official Directory of Literary Agents, and our article/audio training library. Click here to see all that’s included in our Getting a Literary Agent resource center.

How I Got My Book Agent

Successful Authors

Photo of author NJ sharing a Mark Malatesta review at Get a Literary Agent

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

NJ Book Cover for BE on boardwalk with cast from the HBO TV series, posted by Get a Literary Agent

Photo of author LL sharing a Mark Malatesta review at Get a Literary Agent

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

LL Book Cover posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

Photo of author SL sharing a Mark Malatesta review at Get a Literary Agent

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

SL Book Cover for TUB with photo of boy on beach with jester hat at sunset, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

Photo of author MLP sharing a Mark Malatesta review at Get a Literary Agent

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

MLP book cover of S and A with paintbrush drawing cute animated figured, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

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.
Book agent in brown suit on the Ask a Literary page of Get a Literary Agent

Find answers to all your book agent questions. Search our Ask a Literary Agent FAQ and/or post your question(s).

SCHEDULE AN AUTHOR CONSULTATION

Learn about booking an author coaching call

authors we've helped get book agents and/or traditional publishers

finding and getting a Book agent

Free Author Resources

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
  • Our Author Training Library (text and audio archives)
  • The Ask a Book Agent section of our website where you can read (and post) questions about publishing agents
  • Our popular Book Genre Dictionary
  • Insider Articles and Updates
Find and Get a Literary Agent Background Photo
GET A BOOK AGENT
Free instant access to the Directory of Literary Agents and our other resources for getting a book agent
Your Information will never be shared with any third party
error:
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

News and updates to get a literary agent, publisher, and book deal.

You've successfully subscribed!