What is the career in literary agency?

Who are literary agents?

In 1995, Christopher Little, a boo agent in London, signed up a then unknown writer Joanne Rowling. She had approached him after her manuscript – about a boy who gets accepted into a school for witches and wizards – was turned down by every major publisher in the U.K. Little’s negotiating skills made a big difference. Rowling landed a six-figure book deal and the “Harry Potter” series turned into one of the biggest literary franchises ever.

The life of literary agent, also known as a book agent, is an exciting story in itself. Literary agents bring undiscovered talents to the attention of the publishers. A writer’s success often depends upon the capabilities of their agent.

With duties ranging from spotting and guiding new voices to brokering global rights deals, literary agents back up their keen literary senses with strong business and management abilities.

What are the job prospects?

Literary agencies are relatively young in India. There are not more than 12 across the country. But they are growing in demand as many of the Indian publishers such as Hachette India have stopped accepting unsolicited manuscripts and buy them only through agents.

How they work?

Literary agents represent writers. They help the writer connect with the right kind of publisher. They read manuscripts and sign authors whose works they believe they can sell. They generally help to shape the manuscript before it ever gets into a publisher’s hands. Once they land a book deal, the agent and a book editor further help the author develop the story. For their efforts, the agents get a percentage of the money made in the sale of a book.

What to study?

Although there are no specific degree requirements for this career, a bachelor’s degree in English is recommended. Many literary agents also come from communications, journalism, and related fields.

Where to study?

  • Jadabpur University, Kolkata: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English and Master of arts (M.A.) in English.
  • Fergusson College, Pune: B.A. in English and M.A. in English.
  • St. Stephen’s College, Delhi: B.A. in English (Hons.) and M.A. in English.


  • Bristol University and Kingston University, the U.K.: M.A. in English Literature.
  • Queen Mary University and King’s College London, the U.K.: M.A. in Comparative Literature.
  • Emerson College, the U.S.: M.A. in Publishing and Writing.
  • Columbia University School of Journalism, the U.S.: The Columbia Publishing Course-a six-week certificate course.

Required skills:

  • Ability to spot literary talents
  • A deep understanding of the market and the latest trends in book publishing
  • Ability to identify good writing from bad
  • Networking and negotiation skills
  • Knowledge of individual publishing houses and the kinds of books they publish
  • Time management and communication skills


Picture Credit : Google