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A day in the life of a literary agent

I recently made the move to literary agenting after working as an editor for over a decade. Both roles have one thing in common – no two days are ever the same. The role of a literary agent is often reactive – you might receive an offer from an editor, or an outstanding submission land in your inbox, or an author calls you to discuss how their pitch is going – all of which take precedence over what you had planned to do. Though an agent’s day-to-day work is ever-changing, there are general processes that remain the same.


Literary agents receive a lot of submissions. Usually, I glance over new submissions every morning and flag those that instantly catch my eye. I try to find time each week to read through these, and to move quickly with any that have genuine potential. I set an 8-week response window for each submission and often dedicate one day a month to considering others I was less sure about.

I also do a lot of my own outreach. Someone may have an incredible platform or published an article or short story that piqued my interest, and I’ll contact them to discuss agent representation.


If I like a submission and it is fiction, I will request the full manuscript, add this to my reading list and try to assign a day to read through it. Non-fiction manuscripts are often not written but if I am interested in the project, I will likely have queries for the author and ask if they have other writing I can read through.

When I have decided that I would like to represent a client, I arrange a meeting with them to get to know them on a personal level, explain the agent–author relationship and provide any editorial feedback on their manuscript. I will make an offer of representation and once (hopefully) accepted, I will build an author page on the company website and announce it across our social-media channels.

As an editorially-focused agent, I like to spend time editing and fine-tuning a manuscript before submitting it. There might be a couple of rounds of further edits. I also work with non-fiction authors to ensure their proposal and sample chapters are as strong as they can be. I will then craft a pitch letter and begin pitching.


Before pitching, I compile my wish list of primary and secondary editors and publishers to submit to, based on previous conversations with editors, as well as research and comparable titles. Sometimes a project might fit perfectly with an editor and I will submit exclusively to them.

It is always exciting sending out a pitch and waiting to see how the book will be received. You might have a few editors fighting for a project, or only one editor who falls head over heels for a book. Sometimes it can take months of pitching before you find that perfect home. And sometimes you have to regroup and go back out there with a revised manuscript and pitch.

Negotiating publishing offers is key to being an agent. You want to secure the best deal for your clients but you also want to make sure that your author finds the right publisher. Once I have offers, I share these with my clients before negotiating terms with publishers.


After accepting an offer, an agent will go through the publishing contract with a fine toothcomb to make sure it matches the offer and to query any clauses that might be unfavourable to an author. A client is likely to have their queries too. I work with co-agents in foreign territories who submit books on our behalf there as well. Once the deal is secured, I will update everyone with the news (and updating co-agents with news regarding your authors’ books is happening all of the time).

Once the contract is tied up, the publisher side of things takes over. This might involve checking cover art, reading through marketing and publicity plans, chasing payments or helping an author with editorial feedback.

Another big part of being an agent is meeting with editors to learn about what they’re looking to acquire and sharing clients’ projects with them. This is useful for creating an early buzz around a project but it also makes the pitching process much easier if you already have editors in mind.

Authors are at the heart of everything an agent does week in, week out. Agents are there to provide professional and emotional support, manage their careers and brand, fight their corner, sell as many rights as possible and always seek out the best deal. Every day is different but there is always one constant – the happiness and success of your authors.

Andrew James

Andrew James is Founder and Literary Agent at Frog Literary Agency. Follow Andrew on LinkedIn, and Frog on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.