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What is a licensed literary agent. How do you become a licensed book agent? How do you find licensed book agents? And how do you get a licensed publishing agent? This article explains book agent licensing requirements. It’s part of our free 15-Part Guide About How to Get a Publishing Agent.

Book agent in brown suit with invitation to read answer to question, "What Is a Licensed Literary Agent?'
Group of literary agents asking, "What Is a Licensed Book Agent?"

What Is a Licensed Literary Agent?

What is a licensed book agent? The closest thing to a “licensed book agent” is publishing agents who are members of the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA), formerly known as The Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR).

Absolutely anyone can be an author representative. All they have to do is call themselves an author representative. That’s why it’s important for book authors to be aware of the lack of literary agent licensing requirements, to make it more likely they’ll take their time and choose their book agent wisely.

Though there is an association of publishing agents that oversees and governs the actions of member agents, there is no licensing process. Meaning no publishing agents are “licensed.” In other words, no book agents have licenses that must be applied for. No book agents have licenses that need to be renewed. And no book agents have licenses that can be revoked.

The only thing author representatives receive once they’re accepted as members of the book agent organization is proof of membership. Members have the ability to say they’re members, and they can use the organization logo to indicate their status as members in good standing. That’s worth something, as you’ll soon see, but there are limits.

How to Become a Licensed Literary Agent

How do you become a licensed book agent? Author representatives who want to become members of the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA) must be sponsored by two other publishing agents who are members in good standing, and they must agree to abide by the association’s canon of ethics.

In addition to getting two AALA member book agents to vouch for them, author representatives applying to join the association must agree to: act professionally, keep their author clients informed regarding the book agent’s efforts to sell or manage their books, not charge non-standard fees, and not do anything else that isn’t considered a “best practice” by the AALA.

Less than 20% of book agents are “licensed literary agents” or members of the AALA, but being a member is one of the few things book agents can do to show prospective authors they’re making all efforts to be professional, perform at a high level, and serve their author clients with integrity and accountability.

How to Find a Licensed Literary Agent

To find a licensed literary agent, use our free literary agent database and directory. It includes all publishing agents looking for authors, and it reveals which book agents are “licensed literary agents” or members of the AALA.

The book agent database and directory includes:

  • 1,000+ book agent profiles/bios/photos
  • Book agents representing all book genres
  • AALA/AAR membership status
  • Literary agency website links
  • The option to search by book genre, location, etc.
  • Each book agent’s preferred query method(s)
  • Book agent email addresses
  • Book agent postal mail addresses
  • Maps to literary agency offices

There is no charge to use our literary agency database, and if you use our book agent database you’ll also get instant access to our free audio training library with insider advice, interviews, and Q&A sessions (text transcripts also available).

Book authors can also search the AALA directory to figure out which book agents are “licensed literary agents” or members.

How to Get a Licensed Literary Agent

If you want to know how to get a licensed literary agent or a member of the AALA to represent you, the rest of this guide about how to get a literary agent explains. It talks about what to look for in book agents, and how to get them interested in your book.

  1. Research publishing agents
  2. Eliminate book agents to avoid
  3. Prioritize reputable book agents
  4. Prepare your pitch materials

When it comes to getting a good publishing agent, you can use a book agent’s AALA membership status as one of the criteria you consider. However, the fact that a book agent is–or isn’t–a licensed literary agent is just one of many factors you should consider when researching publishing agents.

You might also consider the number of years the person has been an author representative, the size and age of their literary agency, the location of the literary agency, how experienced the book agent is with your particular genre, the publishing agent’s personality, reviews of the author representative, etc.

This article about what a licensed book agent is was written 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.

Licensed Literary Agent – Next Steps

Now that you know the answer to the questions, “What is a licensed publishing agent?” “How do you become a licensed literary agent?” “How do you find licensed literary agents?” and “How do you get a licensed book agent?” click here to:

  1. See our free 15-Part Guide About How to Get a Publishing Agent.
  2. Visit our Ask a Book Agent page, where you’ll find a complete list of questions and answers about finding and getting a publishing agent.

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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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