How to be a literary agent

May 27th, 2009 • Kate

abcMan, I’m really prolonging this, aren’t I? Before we get to today’s About My Query post, a question from a reader. Danae writes:

I’ve always had a love for reading, and literature is my passion. I always thought I wanted to be an author, but then last year I listened to Maureen Johnson’s podcast and realized I wanted to be YOU. I know that you are extremely busy, but I was wondering if you could answer some questions I had. They are short and few, I promise.

1. Is it necessary for me to have taken a business class in high school?
2. What courses would be beneficial to me in college, besides English?

Thanks, and thank you for the books!

Hey there, Danae. Thanks for the kind words. I must say, I like being me, too. And, to answer your question, I was discussing the process of becoming an agent with Jenny, the kt literary intern, just this morning. English is hugely helpful, of course, but so would be any classes you can find in critical thinking. If you ever think you may end up on your own, business classes would help, as would accounting classes. But the best basis for agenting is really just experience. Take whatever classes interest you in college, and after you graduate, seek out a publishing house or agency where you can start at the bottom and learn everything you can. Consider it an apprenticeship.

New York may be the epicenter of the publishing industry, but times are changing, and there are more centers of literary-minded folk now than ever before. You might try San Francisco, Denver, or even Austin! Keep your mind open, keep reading, and keep thinking about what you read.

Good luck!

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5 Responses to “How to be a literary agent”

  1. AudryT Says:

    There are also quite a few Hollywood-oriented agencies that have branches out here in L.A. where folks can intern.

  2. Kate Says:

    Thanks, AudryT. That's a great point. Although, from what I know about Hollywood agencies, the competition for entry level positions can be cutthroat. Granted, that impression comes courtesy of "Jerry Maguire" and "Entourage", so your mileage may vary!

  3. David Dvorkin Says:

    Denver? Gasp! What will they think of next! 🙂

    Isn't the nub of the matter the ability to judge what will sell – first to editors and then to the public? It seems to me that spending time on the agenting and/or editing side as an intern or assistant, is far more important than the courses one takes in college. Right?

  4. dust Says:

    You have an intern! Neat! What does your intern get to do?

  5. kt literary » Blog Archive » Ask Daphne! About College & The Publishing Industry Says:

    […] little more recently, (but still four years ago!) someone asked about what classes to take, and specifically “1. Is it necessary for me to […]