Approximately 14,830 agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes are employed in the United States. Literary agents make up a small percentage of this group. Literary agents work for established large or small agencies, although many are self-employed. Los Angeles and New York are the country's leading entertainment centers, and most agents work in either of those two cities. Some agencies have branch offices in other large U.S. cities and affiliate offices overseas, especially in London.
Employment within a publishing house or a media company is a good beginning for agents because it provides an insider's knowledge of agents' target markets. The other optimum approach is to send resumes to any and all agencies and to be willing to start at the bottom, probably as an office worker, then working up to the position of subagent, in order to learn the field. Job listings are also available at the Web sites of career and professional associations. One useful site is BookJobs.com. Some agents enter the field after a career as a published author.
How far agents advance depends almost entirely on their entrepreneurial skills. Ability alone isn't enough; successful agents must be persistent and ambitious. In addition to proving themselves to their agency superiors and clients, they must earn the trust and respect of decisionmakers in the marketplace, such as publishers and producers. Once agents earn the confidence of a number of successful writers, they can strike out on their own and perhaps even establish their own agencies.
Tips for Entry
Visit the Publishers Weekly Web site (https://www.publishersweekly.com) to read the latest news on book publishing, marketing, and sales.
Land an entry-level job at a literary agency to learn about the field and make valuable industry contacts.
Conduct information interviews with agents and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.
Attend industry events such as BookExpo (https://www.bookexpoamerica.com) and the Frankfurt Book Fair (https://www.buchmesse.de/en) to learn more about the publishing industry.