Become a Book Agent: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a book agent by watching this video. The education, specific training, and experience required to start a career in the literary agency field will be covered.

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Book Agents

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields English, journalism, communications, business management, or related field
Experience Related experience required
Key Skills Communication, reasoning, problem-solving, editing, management, reading, and computer skills
Median Salary (2018) $66,040 (for all agents and business managers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A book agent, also known as a literary agent, discovers new authors, submits an author's work to publishers and editors, and secures book deals and contracts for his or her clients. A successful book agent has a passion for literature, business skills and negotiation expertise.

The fast-paced job of a book agent involves a good deal of reading and sales acumen. Literary agents are often self-employed and frequently work on commission. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, agents and business managers earned a median annual salary of $66,040 as of May 2018.

Education & Internships

Although there are no specific degree requirements for this career, many literary agents have at least a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree in English is a common degree choice for prospective literary agents, as are communications, journalism, and related fields. Students in these programs cover topics specifically related to the career, including literary theory and fiction writing. Some schools also offer certificate programs for aspiring book agents through their continuing education departments.

Consider Taking Related Elective Courses

Courses in criticism and literature can provide valuable training in discussing manuscripts with authors and publishers. Strong written and verbal communication skills are also important for book agents. Elective courses in areas like rhetoric and writing can offer training in communicating clearly, and making valid arguments, among other important communication skills.

Education & Internships

Completing an internship during undergraduate studies can provide potential literary agents with exposure to the field. Positions at publishing houses, newspapers, or other media outlets help students gain experience in writing and editing. An internship helps you make contacts that could lead to other jobs. It's also worth noting that obtaining advanced education, such as a master's degree in English or a related field, can help prospective agents develop skills in a specific area, such as professional, or creative writing.

Experience & Entry-Level Positions

After college, prospective book agents may gain entry to the profession by working in the publishing industry. Working as an editor can help agents hone their skills and exposes them to a multitude of manuscripts. An understanding of the publishing marketplace gives students a good working knowledge of how books are created, quality manuscript attributes, and selling techniques.

After gaining experience in the publishing industry, candidates may be qualified for entry-level work, such as an agent's assistant. This provides on-the-job training, which may last from a few months to a few years. In this position, future book agents learn about selecting manuscripts, writing promotional material, creating contracts and negotiating a book sale.

Representing Clients

After acquiring experience and building a proven track record selling books, candidates are ready to take on a full list of clients and become a book agent. Job duties of a book agent include reading manuscripts, promoting them to publishers, and then negotiating their sale and publication. Some agents may also be responsible for booking travel and appearances for their clients, as well as arranging promotions and providing financial advice. In addition, some book agents join professional organizations like the Association of Author's Representatives, in order to stay current with trends in publishing and to attract new clients.

Becoming a book agent involves earning the necessary education, participating in internships, obtaining any and all related experience, including getting an entry-level position in the publishing industry, and finding and rigorously representing clients.

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