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Jan 5, 2021

How many authors do literary agents represent?

Querying writers frequently wonder about their chance to get a literary agents. An often asked question is:

How many authors do literary agents represent at any given time?

The number may reveal an agent's activity, workload, selectiveness, or network. Well, no need to wonder any more! We asked 7 literary agents. Here are their responses:

Mary C. Moore, Kimberly Cameron & Associates: It’s constantly fluctuating, but I usually have around 20-25 clients, with around 10 super active clients (i.e. clients that are in the middle of a project whether it’s being written/submitted/negotiated). I’ve found over time my list has become very curated around the authors, i.e. I’m looking for strong writers with interesting backgrounds, voices, and perspectives that I feel I can really help have a long career. So these days, although I’m always excited about the projects I sign, I’m more excited about the writer themselves when I offer representation.  

Annie Bomke, Annie Bomke Literary Agency: Right now, I have 22 clients.  While there are certain genres I gravitate towards (like mysteries and historical fiction), over time I’ve found myself broadening the list of genres I represent.  For instance, last year I sent out the first memoir, interior design book and horror novel I had ever represented.  If you had asked me a year before if I had any plans to work on those genres, I probably would’ve said no, but the right projects came along that made it easy to say yes.

Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary Agency: I represent approximately 60 authors. People sometimes say that is too many. You have to remember that not everyone is at the same stage at the same time. Some are writing their next book and so there isn’t anything I need to do at that time other than disburse royalties to them. Some I am editing their manuscript and that takes more interaction or some I am querying. Once the query letter goes out, then it’s just checking back with the editors and keeping the authors notified of responses. Early on I had to realize that, while I would like to be an author’s agent for their whole career, that might not happen. Sometimes an author’s writing changes and they don’t fit what I represent. Sometimes an author’s book’s sales are low and they really don’t need an agent any longer. Sometimes an author stops writing for one reason or another.

Malaga Baldi, Baldi Agency: About 50.  Some authors have books out now, others are between books, others not active. My list has grown.  I still hunt for the books I wish to represent

Linda Glaz, Hartline Literary: I have 54 at the present. Many are currently on sabbatical for various reasons, but most are actively writing and pursuing publishing credits. Obviously, I’ve learned how important the agent/author relationship is long term, and have adjusted to the different personalities who are amazing to work with, and those who aren’t. I try very hard to stick with “amazing.”

Duvall Osteen, Aragi Inc: I represent roughly 45 clients, but only about half are active at any single time. A few of my authors are professionals in other fields, so they may really only write one or two books. I don’t typically take on clients who only plan to write one book, but in each case, I loved the person and the material so much, I was happy to be a part of the work. My author list hasn’t really changed over time, and I don’t anticipate that it will – I am committed to representing authors whose work I love, and that looks wildly different all the time. You’ll find a lot of diversity on my list, of material and among my authors. I have broad tastes, so I’m always eager to read from a wide variety of voices and styles.

Heather Jackson, Heather Jackson Literary: I currently represent 40 clients at various stages of the publication or pre-publication process, but I try not to ‘sell’ more than 12-15 titles a year so that I can be deeply involved in every aspect of the book’s path to readers.  I believe that the sale to a publisher isn’t the endpoint, but rather the start; I try to use the years I had on the other side of the desk to build a bridge for the author, so they can understand the publishing process best and I can help shepherd them through each step.  The beauty of becoming an agent—and the primary force behind my decision to become one—is that the editorial and creative concepts can be and have been broadened out to all of my interests, not just one segment of the marketplace. As an editor, I could work on one particular genre; now I can work with authors who write commercial fiction, narrative non-fiction, and of course, the more practical non-fiction that I have been lucky enough to have had success with throughout my years as a publishing professional. So I’m ridiculously lucky to be able to ‘play’ in the field of the ideas that excite me most while helping authors to find homes for their brilliance and creativity. 

Check out more literary agent interviews with our Agent Spotlight Series!

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