How to get a literary agent
Why do you need a literary agent?
Almost all new writers seeking to be traditionally published need a literary agent in today’s publishing world. The major traditional publishing houses account for almost 80% of book sales worldwide and acquire books almost exclusively from literary agents. A good literary agent can get you a traditional publishing deal, TV and film rights too.
If you want to be published by one of the major publishing houses, also known as the Big Five (Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan Publishers) you’ll want to find the right literary agent to get you a book deal.
Agent listings are hard to navigate. You’ll research literary agents no doubt for many weeks to find literary agents who represent your genre whether it’s historical fiction, science fiction, crime fiction, middle grade etc. As you begin work to query literary agents, you’ll pore through each literary agent’s list, scrutinise their submission guidelines, spend time learning how to craft a strong hook, write a great query letter, and fret and sweat over every down detail down to the subject line of your email query letter. After all that, you’ll no doubt be happy to sign with the first agent who offers you representation.
But even if a literary agent shows interest, requests a full manuscript, and likes your writing, you may still have questions. How well are they regarded in the publishing industry? New agents may not have contacts at a publishing house that represents authors in your genre. What would their submission process be? Editors receive submissions from many literary agencies, but they will prioritise their inbox according to how highly they regard a particular literary agent. You want to sign with the right agent.
Many new authors think the publishing industry is impenetrable, a closed shop. But that’s not the case. The writer’s market is stronger than it has ever been. You might be closer than you think. In fact, most literary agents and publishers are in search of the same thing. A literary agent views the query letter with the same eye the acquiring editor of a publishing house does. They’re looking for a certain something, and we know what that is because our team has hands-on experience of the publishing process having worked as acquiring editors for the Big Five publishers.
Getting a literary agent interested is a challenge but we can dramatically improve your chances.
We can help you find a literary agent
The world’s leading literary agencies are seeking exciting debut authors, and they’re looking for great stories in all genres of fiction, by debut authors who present their writing professionally and with flair. There’s every chance you will get a literary agent if you’re serious about your career as a writer and take good advice.
Whether you’re a debut author, have never been published, or you have self-published or been published by a small press or independent publishers, whether you’re seeking your first agent or want to find a new agent, we can help you get the best agent for you.
Our team have good relationships with many literary agents and they’re extremely well placed to match your work with the best agents. In their former lives as publishing editors they bought books from those same literary agents so they enjoy trusted and respected relationships with them. Our editors know what makes for an exceptionally good submission, because they were able to choose from highly-polished literary agency submissions.
What’s more, our editorial services team are in conversation with literary agents on a weekly basis and they’re able to tip off literary agents to exciting debut authors – like you!
Our partner literary agents
Our literary agents are AAA and AAR members, and they operate worldwide representing authors around the globe.
They represent bestselling and award-winning authors like Tom Clancy, Meg Wollitzer, Philip Pullman, Michael Ondaatje, Hilary Mantel, Marilynne Robinson, Madeleine Miller, Celeste Ng, Gail Honeyman, Richard Osman, Paula Hawkins, J.M Coetzee, Jacqueline Wilson and many more famous names.
Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency
Madeleine Milburn founded the agency described by The Bookseller as ‘a major force in publishing’ in 2012. Madeleine was chosen as one of the book trade’s Rising Stars and in 2017 she was one of a small handful of agents to be included in The Bookseller’s list of the 100 most influential people in the book trade, alongside the likes of J. K. Rowling. She has appeared in the list every year since and introduced to readers many new writers who have become household names.
In 2018, Madeleine won Literary Agent of the Year at the British Book Awards. She was praised for her ‘prolific deal-making’. In 2020, she was shortlisted again for the same award. She represents our Editorial Director Lizzy Goudsmit Kay (writing as Elizabeth Kay).
A famous global operation, closing more than 1,000 international publishing deals a year, WME represents internationally bestselling authors, critically acclaimed literary writers, award-winning journalists, thought leaders and up-and-coming talent. WME authors have been the recipients of such esteemed awards as the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Edgar Award, the Orange Prize, the Giller Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Medal of Literature, among others. Authors include Kiley Reid, Tom Clancy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Curtis Sittinfield, Amor Towles, Jean Hanff Korelitz and Meg Wollitzer.
David Higham Associates
Established in 1935, David Higham Associates represents an outstanding range of writers of commercial and literary fiction, in all media and languages, and are the leading agency for children’s authors and illustrators. From giants of modern literature to commercial fiction, crime fiction and emerging talent that finds a place in pop culture, David Higham Associates work with some of the most exciting fiction writers in the world. Authors include Alexander McCall Smith, Paula Hawkins, Naomi Alderman, Harriet Tyce, Robert Macfarlane, J.M. Coetzee, Jacqueline Wilson and our writer Myfanwy Millward.
Mushens Entertainment is a leading UK literary agency that represents a diverse range of authors, from Sunday Times bestsellers to actors, brands and award-nominated authors. Juliet Mushens has been shortlisted for Literary Agent of the Year four times. She represents a bestselling and critically acclaimed list, from historical fiction to crime fiction, from young adult to science fiction including debut authors and No.1 bestseller Jessie Burton, multi-million-copy bestseller Taran Matharu, and Richard Osman. Juliet Mushens represents our very own Krystle Appiah and Katie Khan.
The Book Group
The Book Group was founded in 2015. They work with every major New York publisher and represent award-winning novelists and illustrators, book club favourites, bestselling thrillers, and fantasy, horror and young adult classics. Their clients include Celeste Ng, Liane Moriarty, Madeleine Miller, Joshua Ferris, Rumaan Alam, Alice Sebold and other writers.
United Agents (UA) is a talent and literary agency headquartered in Soho, London, England. In 2007 UA set up a literary division and further to the acquisition of AP Watt, now represents writers across fiction, non-fiction, history and children’s books, as well as illustrators. Their authors have won many of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes (including the Man Booker Prize, the Costa Novel of the Year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Windham-Campbell Prize, the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Book Award) and appeared at the top of the Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller lists. Clients include John Banville, Julian Barnes, Tessa Hadley and the estate of Helen Dunmore.
Trident Media Group
For more than ten consecutive years, the literary agency TMG has ranked number one for sales according to the publishing marketplace in North America. Located in New York, the agency operates worldwide. TMG is the only U.S. literary agency to consistently be in the top ten in UK fiction and has ranked as highly as number one in UK fiction deals. Among the literary agency’s clients are winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, The Booker Prize, and various other literary prizes.
Peters, Fraser + Dunlop
Peters Fraser + Dunlop (PFD) is a talent and literary agency based in London, England. One of the oldest agencies in Britain, dating from 1924, PFD was a co-founder of the Association of Authors’ Agents. It is home to a distinguished and varied client list, including Jeanette Winterson, Helen Rappaport, Simon Schama, Sarah Raven, Chris Patten, Bear Grylls, and such estates as V.S. Pritchett, E.M. Forster. They represent our writer Susie Bower.
Janklow & Nesbit Associates
The famous US literary agency began as Morton L. Janklow Associates, founded by attorney Morton Janklow in 1977. The arrival of Lynn Nesbit created Janklow & Nesbit Associates in 1989. Janklow & Nesbit (UK) Ltd was established in 2000 to provide the same level of service and expertise to British and European-based writers. The literary agency has represented books that have appeared on the New York Times bestseller lists cumulatively for more than 9,300 weeks between 2010 and 2017. Their amazing authors have garnered every major accolade from the Pulitzer Prize to the Academy Award. They represent our very own editor Lily Lindon.
The Soho Agency
A leading literary agency based in the heart of Soho, London. The Soho Agency was founded in 2019 bringing together the literary agents of LAW (Lucas Alexander Whitley) and Factual Management – two agencies with long-term reputations and stellar clients – to form an expanded company with the dedicated staff, complementary skills and imagination to be active in all areas of international literary representation. They represent Nicholas Sparks, Andy McNab, Kate Mosse, Sophie Kinsella, Ben Fogle, Chris Riddell, Lauren Child and our very own writing mentor Emylia Hall.
Jane Rotrosen Agency, NYC
The Jane Rotrosen Agency on 51st Street Manhattan has represented authors of fiction since 1974. Their literary agent list includes over 1,000 international and domestic bestsellers in all formats. They represent women’s fiction, crime, suspense, thrillers, mystery historical fiction, romance, new adult fiction, young adult fiction and children’s middle grade fiction. Their authors include Tami Hoag, Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Kristin Hannah and Iris Johansen.
Inkwell is one of the world’s leading literary agencies, with an international reputation for representing bestselling and prize-winning writers working closely with every New York publisher. Their literary agents are particularly interested in original ideas, riveting stories and great writing. Their clients include Kate Atkinson, Sophie Kinsella, Lionel Shriver, Lauren Oliver and Markus Zusak.
The literary agency was founded in 1919 by Audrey Heath and Alice May Spinks. Hilary Mantel was the agency’s fourth Booker Prize winner, with Wolf Hall in 2009. In 2012, its follow-up volume, Bring Up the Bodies, repeated the feat, making Hilary the first writer in history to win two Booker Prizes with successive novels – and the first to win with a direct sequel. They represent our writing coach Kate Riordan and our writing member Brooke Hardwick.
DHH Literary Agency
Founded by David H Headley in 2008, this literary agent team of passionate book lovers with a huge commercial fiction client list are devoted to finding new talent and growing writing careers. The literary agents at DHH particularly enjoy crime, women’s commercial fiction, romance and literary fiction. In 2017 Broo Doherty was voted Literary Agent of the Year at the Royal Novelist’s Association.
Founded in 1970, Watson, Little Ltd is a long-established literary agency that offers a full service to its clients across all aspects of media. It has an outstanding track record, and has represented a number of celebrated, bestselling and prize-winning authors over the years, and handles an unusually wide range of adult, children’s and young adult fiction. Watson, Little represent our writing mentor Mahsuda Snaith and our member Shylashri Shankar.
The Blair Partnership
A full-service agency for clients across fiction, children’s & YA. Neil Blair founded The Blair Partnership in 2011, with J.K. Rowling as his first client. Best known for building J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World and for the past 10 years, have represented J.K.Rowling’s literary work and helped to shape and grow the Wizarding World franchise.
Bell Lomax Moreton
Founded in 2000, Bell Lomax Moreton represents a wide range of distinguished authors writing adult fiction and middle grade children’s books. They aim to offer an exceptional level of service to their clients and help them achieve their full potential in all aspects of their writing and illustration career. Rights in the United States are handled by Helen Edwards, formerly Rights Director at Transworld. Film and TV rights are looked after by Valerie Hoskins Associates.
Eve White Literary Agency
A UK-based literary agency representing internationally published authors. Eve White was shortlisted for the BIA 2015 Literary Agent of the Year award, and the British Book Awards 2017 Literary Agent of the Year award. Their literary agents represent authors such as Ruth Ware, Luan Goldie, Rachael Blok and Rebecca Reid. They also represent middle grade fiction and their author Sarah Naughton was shortlisted for The Costa Children’s Book Award for her novel, The Hanged Man Rises. Booktrust has featured their author Andy Stanton’s You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum! on its list of ‘100 Best Books of the Last 100 Years’.
Aevitas Creative Management
Aevitas Creative Management is a full-service literary agency, home to more than twenty literary agents in five cities in the USA (New York, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Seattle) and in London. Their list includes Riley Sager, Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew J. Graff and Tara Conklin. Their authors have won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, National Book Critics Circle Award, PEN/Hemingway, Pushcart Prize, Whiting Writer’s Award, and the Nobel Peace Prize. They represent our own Olesya Lyuzna.
Johnson & Alcock
Johnson & Alcock is an established literary agency, now in its seventh decade and constantly expanding and innovating. They act for a vibrant list of authors, both new and emerging writers and the long-established, in fiction and non-fiction. These include prizewinning and bestselling authors and literary estates across the genres and in all forms of media, both in the UK and internationally. They pride themselves on representing their authors with care, creativity and hard work.
Greene & Heaton
Founded in 1963, Greene & Heaton Ltd is a literary agency working closely with their clients, to polish their proposals, edit their texts, and to give advice about positioning in the fast-changing publishing industry. Their literary agents handle straightforward book representation and contract negotiation to film and TV adaptations. Authors include Sarah Waters, Sebastian Barry, P.D. James and Jenny Offill.
42 are a management and production company who represent actors, writers and directors and produce film, television and content. The book division at 42 represents a number of bestselling and prize-winning authors. 42 authors are published in over 40 languages. Their literary agents focus on storytelling above all else and are led by Eugenie Furniss, twice-shortlisted for Literary Agent of the Year at the British Book Awards. Authors include Matthew Reilly, Celia Walden, and Adriana Trigiani.
Hardman & Swainson
Founded in 2012, Hardman & Swainson is a dynamic London-based literary agency, with a diverse range of clients and an international focus. They represent writers in all genres of commercial fiction and children’s middle grade fiction including Meg Cabot, Miranda Dickinson, Helen Fields and Giovanna Fletcher.
Trellis Literary Managment
A full-service literary agency formed in the fall of 2021 by agents Michelle Brower, Stephanie Delman, and Allison Hunter. The team have worked with books that have received a variety of accolades, including NY Times Bestsellers, National Book Award finalists, and Read with Jenna, Target, and Barnes and Noble book club selections.
Sterling Lord Literistic Inc.
In 1952, Sterling Lord founded his distinguished agency and counted such literary icons as Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey among his early clients. Peter Matson established his firm Literistic in 1979 and rose to prominence representing such writers as Dee Brown and John Irving. In 1987, the two joined forces creating the prestigious agency that continues to flourish today. In 2001, Matson became partners with Philippa Brophy and Laurie Liss who now run the agency.
YMU work closely with writers and creators to develop ideas, shape material, and find the best publishing partners for their books. Their team has decades of publishing experience, a granular understanding of the UK, US, and translation markets, and we can offer expert guidance on film/tv, streaming and podcast opportunities.
Feed your writing habit
With weekly inspiration to your inbox
Get the world’s #1 writing blog to your inbox every Sunday
We never share your data. Unsubscribe any time.