Requirements for a literary agent? They are few. In truth, it’s more accurate to say that there really aren’t any requirements for book agents. This article is part of a 9-part series in our Literary Agency Guide to Literary Agents.
Why do I say there aren’t many requirements to be a book agent? Because literally anyone can call himself an agent, create a website, print some business cards, and get listed in some of the print and online literary agent directories.
Scary, but true.
So, even though the title of this article is Requirements for a Literary Agent …you might think of it instead as Things that Most Publishing Agents Have in Common. It will help you deepen your understanding of book agents, but it will also help you choose a literary agency that is well-established and reputable.
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What Are the Requirements for a Literary Agent?
Although there are no ironclad rules or real requirements for a book agent, most agents have similar life and/or work experience that helped prepare them to become agents. In some cases, they even share some of the same characteristics when it comes to their personalities.
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Educational Requirements for a Literary Agent
Many book agents have some type of educational background in literature, writing, and/or journalism. That isn’t a requirement for a book agent, but it certainly makes sense for an agent to have a decent grasp on spelling and grammar since their entire job revolves around the written word.
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Work Requirements for a Literary Agent
There are no work requirements for a book agent, but most agents have had at least one job in the publishing industry before setting out to open their own literary agency (or get a job at a literary agency). Having previous experience as a book editor, publisher sales representative, book publicist, etc., shortens the learning curve.
Of course you don’t need past job experience in publishing to become an agent. There are a lot of other professions that will prepare you as well, at least in part. For example any job dealing with sales, marketing, and/or publicity. But there are no work requirements for a literary agent.
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Apprentice Requirements for a Literary Agent
One of the best ways to learn what it takes to become a publishing agent (especially if someone hasn’t had a job in publishing), is to serve as an apprentice. A lot of future book agents do this because it allows them to see how a successful literary agent operates. Apprentices get exposure to real-life situations and they get to ask questions.
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Personality Requirements for a Literary Agent
Although many agented authors probably wish there were personality requirements for a publishing agent, there aren’t. Not every book agent has good manner or people skills. However, most book agents should be effective salespeople. Some book agents get what they want by being pushy; others get what they want by being polite.
Ethical Requirements for a Literary Agent
When it comes to ethics, there are no requirements for a book agent …unless that agent is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (also known as the AAR). The AAR has a strict code of ethics that member agents must abide by. But less than 1/3 of all agents are members.
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Conclusion – Requirements for a Literary Agent
Because there are no set requirements for a literary agent, make sure you’re careful about who you work with. Take advantage of all the resources on this website to help you choose the best agent for you… someone who can sell your book, who also has a genuine appreciation for writers and a passion for publishing.
Now, click here to read the next article in this 9-part series and
learn about Literary Agents in the Early 20th Century.