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Literary or Theatrical Agent Job Description, Career as a Literary or Theatrical Agent, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College plus training

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Agents represent and promote actors and writers, connecting them with the producers or publishers who need their talent. Most theatrical and literary agents work for large agencies with many clients. Well-known agents may start their own agencies.

Theatrical agents look for news about new plays so they know where and when actors are needed. Their job sends them to small theatrical productions to see actors performing. Theatrical agents make sure their clients have good casting pictures for their resumes. They see that their clients study acting, speech, voice, and dance in the interest of improving their skills and marketability. When agents hear about auditions, they call those clients who might fit the parts. They also call the producers to suggest that they pay special attention to their clients. A good agent can mean the difference between being ignored at an audition and being given a part. When an actor gets a part in a play or film, the agent receives a percentage of the actor's salary.

Some theatrical agents handle authors' plays and screenplays. Their job is to sell their clients' work to producers of plays and movies. Since so many scripts find their way to producers' desks, no producer has time to consider all of them carefully. However, a producer may take special note of a manuscript that an agent recommends.

Literary agents present their clients' manuscripts and ideas to book and magazine publishers. Writers pay agents fees for selling their manuscripts. This fee is usually a percentage of what the writer is paid. Literary agents also sell movie producers the right to use books for movies. Sometimes they help authors get contracts to write the screenplays. Agents help in the sale of books to paperback publishers. Book and magazine editors rely on agents to find writers for projects the editors want to publish.

Education and Training Requirements

College courses in English, theater, the fine arts, business, and law can help prospective agents develop the skills they need to succeed in the field. Advanced degrees are generally not necessary and do not affect earnings.

Getting the Job

Most literary and theatrical agents work in New York and Los Angeles. The best agents begin their careers in show business or book publishing, so they know people in theatrical and literary circles and the way business is done. Writers, editors, producers, and talent scouts all make good agents. Experience in one of these fields provides a good background for finding a job as an agent. Employment agencies that specialize in publishing may list job openings for literary agents.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement depends on good judgment, an eye for talent, and, in part, good luck. Success in this field involves finding and promoting new talent. As long as filmmakers and publishers need to find just the right actors and writers for specific jobs, agents will continue to find work.

Working Conditions

Agents usually work in an office environment, but they may spend very little time there. Theatrical agents travel to plays and productions. Literary agents must read thousands of manuscripts and outlines each year. Agents spend a great deal of time meeting people at parties and receptions. They must often deal with worried clients. They generally work long hours but enjoy the company of famous people.

Where to Go for More Information

Association of Authors' Representatives
676A 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10036

Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers
1560 Broadway, Ste. 700
New York, NY 10036
(212) 719-3666

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for literary and theatrical agents vary greatly depending on the experience and talent of the individual. Agents usually receive 10 to 15 percent of all their clients' earnings. According to the Occupational Information Network, the median salary for a literary or theatrical agent is $55,140 per year. Some successful agents earn $1,000,000 or more each year. Benefits vary. Large agencies offer health insurance and paid vacations.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts