What does an agent do, exactly?

I recently had a prospective client ask: what does an agent do? And a had client ask: what does an agent do after the book is sold? These are great questions because those new to the business side of book don’t know the details, and many focus on the first half of the process when querying and are a new writer that they want to know more about the second half of what we do.

So here is the list I compiled and I share with you:

  • Assist in project development consultation (future book ideas, directions for writers’ careers etc.)
  • Edit clients’ projects to the best of our ability
  • The pursuit of finding an editor and publisher for your projects
  • The pursuit of sub rights: translation, film, audio, serial – we work with The Gotham Group for film rights and The Taryn Fagerness Agency for sub rights
  • Contract negotiation
  • Problem solving (production, editorial, cover images, sub rights issues) on the author’s behalf
  • Social media consultation
  • Marketing and publicity consultation
  • Attend local and international book fairs to expand authors’ exposure
  • Anything else that our client’s need!

Hope that sheds light on what agents do. For similar post about a ‘typical’ day in the life of an agent click here. Also, yesterday on Twitter there was a great hashtag called #agentday about the work an agent does on an average day.

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

10 thoughts on “What does an agent do, exactly?

  1. I am ashamed to admit, that even after several classes in publishing, I only knew that agents did ONE of those things (help find a publishers). Thanks very much for the info!


    1. You’re welcome! Perhaps I forget to communicate all those aspects because they are just day-to-day tasks for me. Glad this post resonates. It’s a ‘behind the scenes’ peek at what takes fills our day.


    1. Good question. Agents starting out often start with none or are passed down a few from their agency. However some that I know (who have fabulous support systems with interns and assistants) have up to 90 clients. I’m somewhere in the middle ;)


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