Literary Agents

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Today I’m going to talk about agents. Agents are experts in the publishing industry and have inside contacts with specific publishers. They know which editors are most likely to buy a particular work and can secure the best book deal for you. When you enter into an agreement with an agent they will negotiate a fair contract with the publisher for you, protect your rights and make sure you are paid fairly.

The best agents are ones that have been in the industry for many years. Traditionally, agents get paid when they sell your work. They receive 15 percent commission on your advance and royalties.

The big questions is: do you need a literary agent?

If you want to be published by any of the following publishing houses:

  • MacMillan;
  • HarperCollins;
  • Penguin Random House;
  • Hachette Book Group; or
  • Simon & Schuster

then you need to have an agent on your side.

Agents take on clients based on the size of the advance they think they can get. If your project doesn’t command a decent advance, then you may not be worth an agent’s time.

Not every book is published by one of the above publishing houses, or represented by an agent.

Books suitable for a traditional publisher

  • Romance
  • Mystery
  • Crime
  • Thriller
  • Fantasy
  • Young Adult
  • New Adult
  • Erotica
  • Fiction

In comparison, non-fiction books would only be looked at if they anticipate selling up to 20,000 copies minimum.

There are also many mid-size houses, small presses, regional presses, independent publishers, university presses, and digital-only publishers who you can check out if your books doesn’t fall into any of the above categories.

How to find literary agents

You need to research which agent is best for you. To research literary agents have a look at  On that website, you can search the publishing deals database by category, genre, category or a keyword to find the best agents for your work.

Until next time, I hope that helps.


2 thoughts on “Literary Agents

  1. Hi Melisa. Some interesting points, but I was wondering where historical fiction fits into this. You haven’t included it in the list of books suitable for a traditional publisher. As you probably know, my books are self-published, but I was thinking of finding an agent for all my books as soon as my latest WIP is published. My biggest worry with that s that agents won’t consider books that have already been self-published.


  2. Hi Millie, the same applies for historical fiction. Sorry I left that genre out. That was an oversight on my part. Yikes! There are agents that will look at historical fiction. However, you are correct about self-pubished novels. They won’t consider them.


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