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Working as a Literary Agent

Posted on July 27th, 2015 by Ben Cohen

literary agentWhen people think of agents, they often think of suave, impeccably-suited hotshots wheeling and dealing on movie contracts over in Hollywood. But agents don’t just work for filmmakers! In the world of publishing, those lucky individuals with literary agent jobs get to help authors get their work published. So what is a literary agent and what does it take to become one?

Working as a literary agent means being an author’s best friend. Literary agents field submissions to find new writing talent to foster, help their clients get their written product up to snuff to be published, and connect authors with publishers to help make deals happen. Working as a literary agent is one of the most exciting options open to people getting a degree in literature in the US, rewarding people who sincerely love reading and writing and have the social and business savvy to promote it.

However, working as a literary agent isn’t always an easy task, as literary agent jobs are competitive and even harder to come by in the current times of radical change for the publishing industry. Graduating students don’t often obtain literary agent jobs right out of college; instead, it takes years of work in the publishing industry to build experience and create a network of contacts until you can make the job happen.

So what exactly can you do right now to start yourself off on the right track? If you’re currently a student studying literature, you can dabble in a few business classes to give yourself an edge in the literary agent world. Also, make sure to take a wide array of classes in creative writing and literature, as working as a literary agent means dealing with both every day. Upon graduation, don’t look straight to getting a job as a literary agent; look for one of the many entry-level jobs in the wider publishing industry such as an assistant to a magazine editor. And finally, just resolve yourself to the fact that you’ll have to put in a fair number of years before those literary agent jobs will open up to you.


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