As a screenwriter, it can be confusing navigating the multitude of literary agents out there.
Big or small, almost all literary agents won’t accept unsolicited material. Many specify that unsolicited material will be returned or destroyed unread, in order to protect them from complaints or lawsuits from disgruntled amateurs.
These days, when it’s easier than ever for a script to linger at the bottom of an unread email folder, it’s a business of referral. The ideal scenario is, with some buzz behind you, agents will be seeking you out with as much passion as you’re pursuing them. Then the difficult decisions begin.
Which literary agents are expanding? Which agents and their clients are defecting, and to where? (Poaching happens frequently among the bigger agencies.) Which literary agents have represented writers with the kind of career that you’d like to have?
To help narrow it down here are, in alphabetical order, 10 of the very best…
10 best literary agents for writers in 2018
Agency for the Performing Arts was founded in New York in 1962 by former agents from MCA (the record company). Its since expanded its remit from musicians to across the entertainment industries, and has a record for packaging TV shows such as HOME IMPROVEMENT, ROSEANNE, 24, and GRIMM.
Some of APA’s clients are:
- Adam Green (FROZEN, HATCHET)
- Nick Bakay (MOM, THE KING OF QUEENS)
- Noel Clarke (BROTHERHOOD, FAST GIRLS)
- Milo Addica (MONSTER’S BALL)
Billing itself as “the world’s leading entertainment and sports agency”, CAA was founded in 1975 by agents from William Morris. Headquartered in Los Angeles but with offices around the world, it is, along with William Morris Endeavor, one of the largest agencies.
Among its many clients are:
- J. J. Abrams (STAR WARS)
- Jeff Greenstein (DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES)
- Aaron Sorkin (THE SOCIAL NETWORK, writer-director of MOLLY’S GAME)
- Taika Waititi (writer-director of HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, THOR: RAGNAROK)
Curtis Brown was founded in 1899, although the current film, theatre, and television department began with the arrival of Nick Marston in 1997. They also produce films and television through Cuba Pictures (including JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL).
Curtis Brown boasts a strong roster of UK feature and TV talent, including:
- Hossein Amini (DRIVE)
- Debbie Isitt (writer-director of NATIVITY)
- Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley (BLACK BOOKS)
- Damon Beesley, Iain Morris (THE INBETWEENERS)
- Tony Roche (THE THICK OF IT)
- David Wolstencroft (creator of SPOOKS)
Gersh was founded in 1949 by Phil Gersh, an agent in classic Hollywood (he represented Humphrey Bogart and Arthur Hiller, among others). It’s currently based in Beverly Hills and New York City and is one of the largest of the mid-size agencies.
In 2009, Gersh started its own film financing and packaging division under producer Jay Cohen, and in 2015 it added a commercial production division too.
Clients of Gersh include:
- Richard Wenk (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE EQUALIZER)
- Stephen J. Rivele (ALI, A STAR IS BORN)
- Tracey Jackson (CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC)
- Garth Jennings (writer-director of SON OF RAMBOW, SING)
- Matt Mira (THE GOLDBERGS)
- Mike Clattenburg (TRAILER PARK BOYS)
Independent Talent was founded as Duncan Heath & Associates in 1973. It was bought by ICM in 1985 but became independent again in 2002 and was appropriately renamed Independent Talent in 2007.
Among others, Independent Talent has on its books:
- Richard Ayoade (writer-director of SUBMARINE, THE DOUBLE)
- Edgar Wright (writer-director of HOTT FUZZ, BABY DRIVER)
- Matt Charman (BRIDGE OF SPIES, SUITE FRANCAISE)
- Jane Goldman (THE WOMAN IN BLACK, KINGSMAN, THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM)
- Jamie Brittain (co-creator of SKINS)
- Stephen Fingleton (writer-director of THE SURVIVALIST)
Talent and literary agents ICM was formed in 1975 through a merger of two existing agencies. With offices in LA, New York, Washington DC and London, it’s one of the big players in Hollywood. A management buyout in 2012 led to the renaming as ICM Partners.
Some of ICM Partners’ more recent signings include:
- Stewart Harcourt (MAIGRET)
- Roberto Orci (STAR TREK)
- David Shore (creator of HOUSE)
- Shonda Rimes (creator of GREY’S ANATOMY, SCANDAL)
Founded in 1992, talent and literary agents Paradigm has quickly grown through recruiting established and experienced literary agents to its ranks and acquiring smaller agencies. It now has offices across the US, as well as in London and Toronto, and over 300 agents.
Paradigm’s clients include:
- Gary Scott Thompson (THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS)
- Paul Guyot (THE BLACK 22S)
- David Gleeson (‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, METRO 2033)
- Rockne O’Bannon (FARSCAPE)
- Peter Steinfeld (21, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE)
Not to be confused with the American UTA (United Talent Agency, below), United Agents was established in 2007. In 2012, AP Watt, the oldest literary agency in the world representing many best-selling and award-winning authors, joined United Agents.
Their clients include:
- Nick Cave (THE PROPOSITION, LAWLESS)
- Stephen Merchant (THE OFFICE, EXTRAS)
- Peter Moffat (DOCTOR WHO)
- Rachel Tunnard (ADULT LIFE SKILLS)
- Richard Curtis (LOVE ACTUALLY, ABOUT TIME)
- Mark Marlow (CLEAN BREAK)
- Daniel Lawrence Taylor (TIMEWASTERS)
Founded in 1991 by a merger and initially considered an upstart, UTA is now established as one of the largest talent and literary agents in the world. It was one of the first agencies to start an division for online content.
Its thousands of clients include:
- John August (BIG FISH, ALADDIN)
- Judd Apatow (GIRLS, LOVE)
- Dan Futterman (FOXCATCHER, CAPOTE)
- Kelly Marcel (50 SHADES OF GREY, SAVING MR. BANKS)
- The Coen brothers (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN)
William Morris Endeavor (WME) formed out of the merger of the William Morris Agency and Endeavor in 2009. (William Morris was founded in 1898; Endeavor in 1995).
Along with CAA, it is one of the largest agencies. WME also owns UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).
Among WME’s many clients currently are:
- Simon Beaufoy (BATTLE OF THE SEXES, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE)
- Mark Boal (DETROIT, THE HURT LOCKER)
- Allan Loeb (JUST GO WITH IT, 21)
- Michael Dougherty (KRAMPUS, TRICK ‘R’ TREAT, SUPERMAN RETURNS)