How do I contact literary agents

Literary agent

The Literary agent is a service provider that looks after writers and places them with publishers and other media companies. Its task is to create a framework in which the author and publisher can work together. The literary agent negotiates contracts for the manuscripts of the writers he represents, looks for publishers for new books and interested parties for third-party rights (filming, translation, audio rights, etc.).

Agents keep a commission from their clients for their services, on average around 15% of the author's fee. Literary agents also represent foreign publishers and authors. They then offer German publishers the corresponding translation rights.

If an author works with an agent, if the editor is interested in the manuscript, he must negotiate the contract with the agent. Authors from general publishers are represented more often by literary agents than authors from specialist book publishers.

Tasks and requirements

Literary agents in the magazine market

There are also literary agents active in the yellow press area, who convey short trivial literature such as thrillers, love stories and so-called “true stories” (confessions) to the magazines for a commission. Some magazines only work through literary agents, so a writer has to hire an agent to get into business.


In the Federal Republic of Germany, literary agents were initially primarily concerned with placing foreign authors with German publishers. In contrast to the USA, where almost all authors were looked after by literary agencies, in Germany the publishers and the authors negotiated the contracts directly. However, the importance of literary agents in the marketing of manuscripts seems to have increased in Germany in recent years as well.

The Gunhild and Ernst-Adolf Kunz couple brokered under the name as early as the 1950s Ruhr story Texts from authors such as Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass or Ilse Aichinger to newspapers and magazines. Since the late 1980s, more and more literary agencies have been founded in Germany to support and mediate German authors.

In Scandinavia literary agencies emerged more and more in the early 2000s after the first Scandinavian literature became popular mainly in Germany. In addition to independent publishers, the publishers founded so-called "in-house agencies" there, which have the task of selling the rights to books by selected authors in their publishing house. With this model of "in-house agencies", which is only known in Scandinavia and which differs from conventional rights and licensing departments, the publishers wanted to try to ensure that the profits that are made through the sale of rights also benefit the publisher. It should be noted that with the advent of agencies in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, licensing increased and Scandinavian literature became more popular worldwide.[2]


  • Elisabeth Böker: Scandinavian bestsellers on the German book market. Analysis of the current literature boom. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2018. ISBN 9783826064647
  • Ernst Fischer (Ed.): Literary agencies - the secret rulers in the literary business? (= Mainz studies in book studies. 11). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2001, ISBN 3-447-04471-3.
  • Joachim Jessen, Martin Meyer-Maluck, Bastian Schlück, Thomas Schlück: Literary agency. Successful teamwork. Author - agent - publisher. Revised and expanded new edition. Authors' House, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-86671-010-0.
  • Simone Murray: The Adaptation Industry. The Cultural Economy of Contemporary Literary Adaptation. New York, London: Routledge.
  • John B. Thompson: Merchants of Culture. The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Polity, 22013, pp. 59-100.
  • Sandra Uschtrin, Heribert Hinrichs (Eds.): Handbook for authors. Information and addresses from the German literature business and the media industry. 8th, completely revised and expanded edition, status: January 2015. Uschtrin, Inning am Ammersee 2015, ISBN 978-3-932522-16-1.

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Simone Murray: The Adaptation Theory. The Cultural Economy of Contemporary Literary Adaption. Routledge, New York, London, 53.
  2. ^ Elisabeth Böker: Scandinavian bestsellers on the German book market. Analysis of the current literature boom. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg, ISBN 978-3-8260-6464-7, pages 260-269.