Stuff You Need to Know About Agents

How many of you think this is a writer? How many of you know this is an agent?

The first question most aspiring writers ask most post-aspiring writers is, “How do I get an agent?”

This indicates two things. First, of course, it shows that the aspiring writer doesn’t have an agent. But second, it also indicates that the aspiring writer probably doesn’t really know what an agent does, or why s/he needs one.

Fortunately for all concerned, this TVWriter™ minion has found a couple of articles that address these important issues. So, without further ado:


What Do Literary Agents Do
by Nathan Bransford

Updated! Revised! With more links!

It’s been a long time since I originally published this post on what literary agents do.

For context, I was a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. from 2002-2010, so posts that written during that time will sound as if I’m currently an agent (which, again, I’m not).

Behold! This is organized in the form of tracking one project from query to post-sale:

The Filter

Literary agents are the baleen to the publishing industry’s whale. The Brita to the publishing industry’s drinking water. The pan to the publishing industry’s gold. (I could go on)

Basically: agents serve as a filter. Because editors are so busy, it’s rare for publishers to consider unagented submissions and they instead rely on agents to filter through the tens of thousands of aspiring writers and present editors with only the very best projects.

This means that agents open the floodgates to submissions. Most agents receive between 5,000 and 20,000 or more submissions a year and choose only a few carefully selected projects to send to editors.

Agents may specialize in certain areas or they may be generalists, but all have to reject way way way more projects than they are able to take on.

For further reading:
A day in the life of an agent
Query stats: Salutations!
Digging for mushrooms
You’ve got 30 pages, pal
In praise of reading slush

Pre-submission Editing

Because the marketplace is so difficult, many agents will work with clients or prospective clients on their manuscripts or proposals prior to submissions.

I was a hands-on agent and would often work with authors on revisions before offering representation so that we could both get a sense of how well we would work together….

Read it all at Nathan Bransford’s blog


Screenwriting Agents: The Top 23 Hollywood Literary Agencies
by Stephanie Palmer

Much of what is commonly known about screenwriting agents has “truthiness” but isn’t true. Misconceptions persist because the agency business is somewhat secretive. There are lots of very powerful agents and agencies that keep a low profile on purpose.

When you watch Entourage, The Player, Ray Donovan, Californication, or Swimming With Sharks – you see the intelligence, high-stakes strategic thinking, aggressive mindset, sense of humor, and more.

But you miss the personal elements, factual backstory, and real-world situations that are crucial to understanding agents and persuading them to represent you. Hopefully this will help you sound like a professional when the topic of agents comes up and perform well in meetings with these influential decision-makers.

Screenwriting agents and their agencies tend to fall into two main categories:

  • The “Big Four” Agencies
  • Boutique Agencies

The Big Four (and we will talk more about them in a moment), are WME, CAA, UTA, and ICMP. Everything that’s not these four I’m calling a “boutique.”

Now, some may dispute this categorization scheme because there are a number of what I’m calling “boutiques” that are more like a mid-sized agency such as Gersh, Innovative, and Paradigm.

Sometimes, these three agencies are referred to as part of “The Big Seven.” As you become more of a Hollywood insider, these distinctions become important. For now, what I really want you to understand is this: Most of the deals in Hollywood are handled by The Big Four. You need to be very familiar with these companies.

William Morris Endeavor (WME)

Founded in 1898 as a vaudeville booking service, the William Morris Agency is Hollywood’s longest running talent and literary agency. There are 273 agents at WME.

In 2009, William Morris merged with Endeavor Talent Agency to form William Morris Endeavor. In 2012, Silver Lake Partners acquired a 31 percent stake in WME and that has been subsequently upped to 51 percent.

William Morris Endeavor became Hollywood’s biggest agency when it acquired sports and media talent agency IMG for $2.4 billion in 2014, so now the combined WME-IMG comprises more than 5000 employees.

“Working at a talent agency is like working for the CIA. You get to know what’s going on at the networks, at the studios, you have access to all this talent, on-screen and off. At Sony or Disney or NBC they only know about themselves. At an agency you know everything about everybody — even in the mailroom.” – Rob Carlson, WME Agent

Read it all at The Script Lab