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Helping you find a career as a Literary agent

It is a literary agent's job to help advertise an author to potential publishers as well as deal with the associated administration in order to allow their clients to concentrate on writing. Many literary agents specialise in one field, such as crime, children's books or non-fiction.

What does a Literary agent do?
Although the work is varied based on client demand, a typical day would involve:
  • Reading and selecting manuscripts

  • Matching manuscripts to publishers

  • Advising authors on editing their manuscript

  • Developing contacts with publishers and recommending manuscripts to them (often repeatedly)

  • Negotiating contracts with publishers and authors

  • Going to book launches and fairs

  • Finding translators to produce foreign language editions of popular manuscripts
What skills and interests should an Literary agent have?
  • Design skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Presentation skills

  • Verbal and written communication

  • Well organised
What hours does a Literary agent typically do?
Officially, literary agents are employed during the normal office hours of 9am - 5.30pm. However, you would have to regularly work outside these hours, attending events and reading manuscripts in your own time.
What environment is a Literary agent based in?
An office or from home.
How much does a Literary agent travel?
Having to attend events, meet with clients and potentially even negotiate translation deals means, depending on the size of the company, travel is typically involved. For small companies this is typically within the UK, but for larger companies this can mean spending periods of time abroad.
How much does a Literary agent get paid?
At an entry level position, when employed by a company, literary agents can expect to earn around £15,000 a year. After gaining experience, this typically rises to between £20,000 and £30,000 a year.

If you chose to freelance, the income varies month to month depending on the number of manuscripts which you work with.
Perks & benefits
Although commission can vary between companies, the average literary agent can expect between 10% and 15% commission for every copy of a manuscript sold in the UK and around 20% for every copy sold abroad plus a commision on the sales of the rights (most commonly for film and TV).
What qualifications does a Literary agent need?
Although there are officially no entry requirements for this position, the high level of competition means that most employers now expect literary agents to have undergraduate degrees.

In addition to this, it is also useful to have some experience (even if only voluntary) in publishing to help yourself stand out.
Useful subjects to study at school & university
  • English Literature

  • Scottish Literature

  • Foreign languages (for foreign language books)

Photo by Ginny (CC BY-SA 2.0), resized and cropped.

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