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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.

36 Comments

  1. Davy Ellisor

    Dear Mark. I will remand half my Royalties to your firm. I have had offers from Amazon Microsoft Google. I refused all.
    All rights including international digital copyrights are mine. Biography of a Rock Star growing up with witches, I’ve researched agents for years. I have chosen you!
    My last song was Angelina’s Dream uploaded to over a million fans. 186 witches groups 18 million members. Willing to tour. A free download of book 📕 1 out of 7 is available.
    I sold out my first 1,000 at $45.00. I’m overwhelmed.

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Davy,

      I appreciate your faith in me, but I’m no longer a literary agent. All I do now is help authors get literary agents.

      To that end, you’ll likely find the following helpful if you haven’t used them yet (or fully):

      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/

      There’s a lot there, no cost.

      All my best,

      – Mark

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

      Reply
  2. Khadija Aminu

    Good day. I am looking for a literal agent please.

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Khadija,

      I’m happy to help

      See here:

      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/

      If you want to post a question or anything else, you can do so on my “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/.

      I’ll do what I can to help.

      All my best,

      – Mark

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

      Reply
  3. MR. DEREK WYNN

    Good Morning Sir or Madam. It’s late Christmas day evening and I am struggling to get proofread my three stories in one and get my children books recognized and published.
    My name is Mr. Derek Wynn. Aged 81 May 2023. A retired Power plant commissioning engineer. I reside in Bulgaria, and I found out I can manage here in Bulgaria on my small UK pension of 1400 pounds each quarter. I live in my cottage and I have always had the desire to write stories more so through this awful virus Covid 19. Saying that I am just getting over my second bout of Covid, all of my flu and Covid 19 jabs are in order including my 2nd covid booster.
    I have no called savings as such and daily read about these riches the Americans make with their books. I decided a long while ago they really are winners any way they can get a dollar out of you they will exploit it.
    So just now I have taken a step to find out how British writers get their books reviewed, proofread, edited, and published, and what costs are incurred. In a position like my own, who cannot afford to pay such costs?
    I have chosen UK book publishing to offer me some advice, on how I should proceed and would welcome your help. I have written a trilogy of three books as follows.

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Derek,

      If your goal is to get a literary agent and/or a traditional book publisher, you’ll likely find the following helpful.

      There is no charge to access/use the following:

      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, or have another update, post on my new “Ask a Literary Agent” page at https://getaliteraryagent.com/ask-a-literary-agent/.

      I’ll do what I can to help.

      All my best,

      – Mark

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

      Reply
  4. Judy Magar

    I would like a copy of your free guide.

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Judy,

      Happy to help…

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

      And if you want/need help with anything else, or have another update, post on my new “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,

      All my best,

      – Mark

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

      Reply
  5. Pauline Gordon

    Hi Mark

    You have a great website. So much info. I am interested in paying your first fee. I need help in finding the right Literary Agent. My Genre is middle grade and it’s important I talk to you about it’s creation. I have a strong passion for this book but I have spent many hours researching for the right agent but can’ find one. Can you help me?

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Pauline,

      Nice to meet you, thank you, and yes, I’m happy to help.

      Sounds like this is what you’re looking for:

      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 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
  6. tom boyd

    I am researching for an agent to represent a line of coloring books based on a themed village of ancient lore characters.

    In addition there will be 8 novels based on these same characters.

    Note: very disruptive having your words come up before you type.

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Tom,

      Not sure what you mean about “having your words come up before you type.”

      Re: the rest, you can search for agents by genre and more here:

      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
  7. Tom

    Hi mark
    I’m interested to know about a query letter, is that what you send to a Litary agent and is there a generic type letter, or can you help with something more interesting? Also do you send parts of your book or the whole book in e form?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Literary Agent News

      Hi Tom,

      Happy to help. When it comes to writing a query to get a literary agent, you can certainly be creative, but it’s best to do so within a certain structure. Look at the “Literary Agent Submissions” section of the following:

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

      You’ll also find this helpful, when you’re ready to start querying:

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

      And, 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

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

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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