One of the questions new writers often ask is what the difference is between a literary agent vs. a manager? Do I need both? Can I just pitch my work myself? Why give up a percentage of my fees to someone else? How do I find a literary agent? Before you start querying literary agents or managers, it’s important to learn what they do, what the costs are, and what combination of representatives you need to succeed.
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Finding a literary agent requires preparation on the writer’s part long before that query letter goes off. Improve your odds of getting an agent by understanding what a screenwriting agent and manager wants in a writer.
What a literary agent wants in a writer:
- Commercial ideas. You can be the best writer in the world, but if your idea isn’t marketable, the sale is never going to happen.
- Seasoned and market ready. If the writer isn’t seasoned yet, s/he at least has to have great potential, be open to feedback, and learn quickly. However, the trend now is for a manager to hone the writer’s craft and overall career, not the agent. The agent only wants a script when it’s ready to take out the door and be sold.
- “Good in a room.” While both managers and agents recognize pitching a screenplay takes practice, a manager is more willing to help train you to pitch. Like your script, an agent wants you ready to enter an executive’s room with confidence.
- Passionate about your career. Translation: If you’re passionate about screenwriting, you’ll have longevity and be worth their investment of time. No one wants to invest in someone who only aspires to be a one-hit wonder.
- Understanding of how the industry works. Knowing how to get a literary agent starts with researching what agents and managers represent which writers. If you query one who only reps comedy writers and you’re writing horror, they won’t take you seriously because you clearly didn’t do your research. Use a guide to literary agents, search the web, or read the trades. Knowing the history of the agent’s successes will impress them.
- Long-term partnership. No one wants to put their hard work into honing a writer’s skills and expectations only to be dumped in six months (or when a bigger manager comes along). Work on the relationship via open communication and honesty so you both can manage your expectations of each other.
What you should NOT expect from a manager or agent:
- Exchange of money upfront. An agent or manager should NEVER ask for money upfront to represent you. Finding a screenwriting agent doesn’t mean selling your soul. If they ask you for money, that’s a huge red flag you cannot ignore.
- The agent or manager isn’t a dictatorship. Not only are you a team, but they also work for YOU. A lot of newer writers forget that, and it certainly doesn’t give the writer permission to be disrespectful to their representatives, but you should be confident they have your best interests at heart… because they represent YOU. They are an extension of YOU. They need to act as YOU would want them to. Don’t be afraid to push back if you’re feeling steamrolled. It’s your career. Fight for it.
Now that you know what a literary agent or manager wants in a writer, find out how much they charge, how to get one, and if you need an agent, manager, and an attorney by downloading the Screenwriters’ Guide to Navigating the World of Literary Agents and Managers!
Learn how to get a literary manager or agent in our FREE download exclusively made for you!