400+ Literary Agents in the UK- and How To Approach Them – Jericho Writers
Jericho Writers
167-169 Great Portland street, 5th Floor, London, W1W 5PF
UK: +44 (0)330 043 0150
US: +1 (646) 974 9060
400+ Literary Agents in the UK- and How To Approach Them

400+ Literary Agents in the UK- and How To Approach Them

Congratulations! You’ve finally finished your manuscript and now you’re looking for a literary agent who represents writers like you. The good news is that literary agents positively want submissions. Most really big authors, from Hilary Mantel to JK Rowling, arrived via the slushpile, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same.

But where do you start?

There are hundreds of literary agents in the UK, and this article lists pretty much all of them: well over 400 UK-based agents. That list is available at the bottom of the piece and you can jump straight there – or read on for an in-depth guide to how to get and work with literary agents.


UK agents1
Find your perfect UK agent

Literary Agents: All You Need To Know

In this article we’re going to guide you through everything you need to know about finding a UK literary agent – from agent submission guidelines to fiction submissions, how to write a covering letter to understanding genre when it comes to choosing your agent.

Here are the 7 simple steps you need to take when searching for a UK literary agent:

  1. Understand what an agent does
  2. Know your genre
  3. Decide who to approach
  4. Create a shortlist
  5. Write a synopsis
  6. Write a query letter
  7. Check out our links to the UK’s top agents and start making notes!

And if you actually want a list of US literary agents, then you need to be here instead.

Is it worth getting a literary agent?

Literary agents are the gatekeepers of the book world. This can be a bitter sweet reality because, although they weed out books that aren’t a good fit for traditional publishing, they are also the people standing between you, a top publishing house, and your dream of becoming a bestseller.

When it comes to traditional publishing – especially the Big Four (Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and the Hachette Book Group) – no editor will look at an author’s book proposal unless it comes from one of many reputable literary agencies.

So if you have fantasies of your novel making it to Waterstones shop window, or for sale in supermarkets and airports, or if you want to be a Sunday Times Bestseller with your story turned into a movie via a film agency, then you will need to be with a big publisher.

And if that’s the case, you need an agent.

Literary agents are salespeople – they take you on (not just for this book but YOU as an author) and they cheerlead you all the way to the editors who they feel will suit you and your work best. The idea is that they will help shape your career, you will work together for many books to come, so this relationship needs to work. Yes, you pay agents something for their work (more about that shortly), but the value agents add should multiply your total income many-fold. In short: if traditional publishing is what you want, getting an agent is a no-brainer. Just do it.

How do you get a literary agent?

Check your Genre

Most agents are fairly eclectic in their tastes. My own agent handles high-end literary fiction, some very serious non-fiction … and some very successful commercial women’s fiction writers … and crime fiction … and some fun, light non-fiction too. He’s actually typical, rather than unusual.

That said, agents – like any readers – do have their passions and it’s no use at all sending your speculative fiction to agents who just don’t handle the genre.

But be creative. If you’re writing a thriller set in northern Norway, then somebody with a passion for all things Scandinavian may well be a good option, even if he hasn’t sold many thrillers.

An agent near you?

The fact that there are over 400 literary agents in the UK can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? (Remember, you can jump straight to our list of agents or keep reading.)

In term of location, don’t worry about finding an agent near to where you live. For one thing, most UK agencies have a London office – because that’s where most publishers are. There are good agents also in Dublin and Edinburgh, but not a lot outside those places. That just doesn’t matter. Zoom exists. Phones exist. Trains exist. If you have a great agent, living a long way from you, but close to all the publishers that matter – that’s a win.

Finding agents open to submissions

You need to approach literary agents who are keen to hear from people like you. It’s pointless wasting your energy on the rest. That means you want UK literary agents who:

  • Are open to submissions in your genre
  • Welcome submissions from new writers via their slushpile (this sounds scarier than it is, it just means adding your submission to their large pile of other unsolicited applications)

You can just Google around, or you can use our AgentMatch tool. Our tool is comprehensive, but the result is that your longlist is likely to be at least 100+ names long. So let’s whittle it away further…

Finding agents you want to work with

Take your longlist and pick out any UK literary agents that you especially like the sound of:

  • Maybe they represent some of your favourite authors in your genres.
  • Or they represent a favourite author in a different genre.
  • Or they don’t represent a particular favourite writer of yours, but they have commented admiringly on that author.
  • You have particular reason to like or admire the agent’s literary agency.
  • They share a passion of yours.
  • They made a comment in a blog / on YouTube / at our Festival of Writing / or anywhere else . . . and for whatever reason that comment struck a chord in you.
  • And it’s OK if your reason is dumb. Maybe you like an agent’s face (never underestimate a gut instinct)!

Really, you’re just looking for points of contact that make sense given your (relatively scant) information resources.

Get matched with your perfect UK agent

How many literary agents should you approach?

The best number of agents to focus on, at the beginning, is 12-15.

Fewer than that you’re not giving yourself a chance (some agents may LOVE your book, but it may be too similar to something they already have or they simply don’t have the time).

Conversely, if you keep submitting after more than 15 rejections, with no concrete feedback and no full requests, it’s almost certain that your manuscript isn’t yet ready to sell – in which case you need to find out what’s wrong, then fix it. (Our manuscript assessment service will help with that.)

Submission Guidelines

Whether you write diverse fiction or popular science, commercial or non fiction, the best way to be rejected by any literary agent is to not follow their guidelines.

Most agents ask for a Word document or pdf. They’re unlikely now to demand a particular font – but don’t be weird, or too small. A Times New Roman font at 12pt won’t go wrong. I use Garamond. But anything normal is fine … so long as you’re within the agency’s own guidelines.

Some will ask for sample chapters, others just the first few pages. Some are still accepting submissions via post, most are by email or their own online forms. Make sure you tick all the boxes!

Write A Synopsis

I’ll keep this brief (we have many blogs on how to write a synopsis) but this is an important part of the submission process. A synopsis is a summary of your entire book, preferably over two pages or 600-or so words.

You can’t get your whole novel into this kind of space, so don’t even try. Simply, ensure your synopsis focuses on the main characters, and the keys plot beats. In nearly all cases, your synopsis should, as well as noting the names of key characters, summarise:

  1. Status quo
  2. Inciting Incident
  3. Developments
  4. Crisis
  5. Resolution

Don’t worry about if your synopsis seems boring: it will be dull. This document is a working tool – an outline, only – and it’s not meant to be exciting.

Write A Query Letter

In short, a query letter (or ‘covering letter’) is a simple introduction to what you’re looking for, a brief summary of your book, and some info on you.

  • Explain that you are looking for representation and why this agent is the right fit for you and your book.
  • Add your one line book pitch and an intriguing premise. Including why you were inspoired to write it.
  • Outline some relevant info about yourself (this is where you highlight any relevant writing experience, awards, education, background that adds strength to your writing career).

For a more comprehensive guide on writing the perfect query letter, read a sample query letter and get all the advice you need.

Keep track of your agent search

And if you STILL have questions…

Case Studies

No two journeys to acceptance by a literary agent are ever quite the same, so we’ve gathered together a few different stories of paths to publication by a few of our successful clients. Please feel free to browse these case studies for inspiration, support – and a reminder that this road can be long and winding …

Dominic BrownlowHelen ParuselIsabel CostelloSally-Anne MartynJoanna Cannon.

Agent Interviews

We have an excellent selection of interviews with leading literary agents. They’ll tell you what they really looking for, the things the bother them the most and much else. Reading these interviews is also a brilliant way to remind yourself that agents are human, genuinely keen to uncover talent – and are every bit as passionate about books and reading as you are. We’ve got a lot of interviews on the site, but here are a few to get you started:

Stephen FraserMegan CarrollPaige WheelerAnne PerryCamilla Bolton

Comparison with digital-first publishing

These days, the publishing world is much more diverse than it used to be. You can have publishers that are traditional (in the sense that they’re highly selective about what they take on) but operate “digital-first”, meaning that books appear as ebooks or online-print only. These publishers can be independent or operate as autonomous arms within larger publishers, such as HarperCollins for example. While you can approach these publishers via an agent, you have to have an agent at all – you can submit directly.

One case study of a client of ours who succeeded in this way can be found here. Another, really inspiring case study (from 28 rejections to a 2-book deal) can be found here.

In our view, it’s quite wrong to think of digital-first publishing as in any way a second class option. On the contrary, it’s simply the right approach for the kind of books whose audience will mostly be found in ebook rather than via print. That might well include your book.

Comparison with self-publishing

Equally, there’s a real opportunity now to self-publish. That’s such a huge topic, we’re not going to discuss it here, except to say that indie authors have a real opportunity to make money, build a career and attract readers. It’s probably true to say that there are more self-pub authors earning any given level of income from writing than there are traditional authors in the same bracket. (Not convinced? Check out our video here.) That’s a stunning fact and one that doesn’t get enough media awareness.

Needless to say, self-pub (or “indie”) authors don’t need a literary agent. To learn more about self-publishing and whether it’s right for you, check out this resource. For a case study of self-publishing success, check out Peter Gibbons’s experience and Tim O’Rourke’s remarkable story.

International markets

A UK agent can sell your book overseas. Likewise, if you are a US author, for example, your American agent will be able to sell worldwide. In some cases, those overseas rights will be sold by the agency directly. In other cases, your agent will work using a network of overseas partners. And sometimes, if an agent sells world rights in a book to a publisher, then that publisher will itself make overseas sales on your behalf.

If you want to know whether to query US or UK agents, check out our guide here.

But don’t overthink this. Any agent you pick will have ways to sell you internationally. Your focus now should just be on picking the agent who loves your work and is best placed to make that first crucial sale.

How much does a literary agent cost?

Literary agents are fantastically good value, because you never pay them anything. Or at le3ast, you should never pay an agent out of your own pocket. They work purely on commissions (generally 15% for domestic sales, 20% for film and abroad). they don’t earn a penny from you until you earn.

And don’t think of that 15% as “lost” money. Any halfway good agent should make you multiples more on your behalf than you could possibly make for yourself. It’s a good deal, and be happy with it.

Industry trends

Publishing is always changing. An important recent trend is the (horribly overdue) embrace of more diverse voices in publishing. But there’ll always be industry tittle-tattle about (for example) the rise and falls of such things as misery memoirs, paranormal romance, domestic noir and so on.

On the whole, though, we’d suggest that you don’t get too swayed by such things. Publishing is a basically conservative industry because readers are quite conservative themselves. If you write a wonderful book, people will want to read it. Quite honestly, and unless you are a professional agent or publisher, that’s the only trend you really need to deal with.

Submission Success Tips

The only really key rules here are:

  1. Write a great query letter. This really shouldn’t be too hard for you. It’s a one-hour job and no more. Keep your query down to about a page, or maximum two. Make sure the agent knows what the heart of your book is – the USP, the thing that makes it special. It’s good to personalise your letter to a given agent, where possible. More information here.
  2. Write a great synopsis. The trick here is to build upwards from the structure of your book rather than trying to precise the book itself. More information on writing your synopsis can be found here.
  3. Choose agents with care. We recommend AgentMatch, which is our proprietary search tool available to our Premium Members. The trick is to make sure that the agents you approach handle your genre (in AgentMatch, that’s as simple as selecting a filter button) and ideally some sort of specific overlap as well.
  4. Choose 12 or so agents in total. Oh yes, and the most important rule of all …?
  5. Write a good book.

That last part is the hardest part, of course, but it’s also the only bit that truly matters.

Agent Response Etiquette

OK, we’re writers ourselves and we think that agents should always handle themselves with normal professional courtesy when dealing with writers. In reality, of course, agents are busy and not always professional, so the rules of etiquette that matter are:

  1. Submit your work according to the instructions on the agent’s website. Minor deviations from those instructions are OK, but nothing huge.
  2. Wait at least four weeks for a response. Better to wait 6 weeks. You can add a week if your query period runs over Christmas or the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.
  3. At that point, you can nudge, once. “Have you had a chance to look at …?” that kind of email. But only one nudge, and honestly I wouldn’t even advise that. Treat a silence as a “no.”
  4. If an agent requests your full manuscript, that’s great news. Send it. Be friendly. Be professional. If you hear nothing after that, you should definitely nudge – again after, 4-6 weeks. But again: one nudge per agent, maximum.
  5. If one agent requests your manuscript, it actually makes sense to contact any others you have live submissions with. The gist of your email will be “I wanted to let you know that another agent has asked to see the full manuscript. Please let me know if you would like it as well.” Basically, you’re telling agents that you’re getting Valentine’s cards from someone else and trying to make them jealous. It sounds childish, but I promise you the tactic works very well.
  6. If an agent offers you representation, then definitely tell everyone else you have a live submission with. If you can get a kind of auction going, that’s ideal. The best situation is that you end up talking with 2-3 agents and going with the one you have the best chemistry with.

Don’t ask agents for feedback. That isn’t their job and there’s no reason why they should do it unpaid. If you want paid feedback direct from an agent, then read the next section heading.

Getting feedback from literary agents

If you want to get feedback direct from an agent, you can. You can book it through us right here. Just remember that agents are salespeople, first and foremost. You won’t get a full manuscript assessment from them and they wouldn’t be the best people to do that anyway. If you want your full manuscript assessed by a pro editor, then we can do that for you. More information here.

Legal and contractual aspects

Publishing contracts are long and complicated. Agent contracts can – and really should – be very sweet and simple: a two-page letter written in clear English. The two key elements of that contract are:

  1. If an agent does a deal on your behalf, they’ll continue to accrue earnings from that deal, and for the lifetime of the deal, even if you terminate your relationship with the agent. In my view, that’s a perfectly fair arrangement.
  2. You’ll pay 15% on any domestic deal (ie: a sale to your home market) and 20% on anything else – overseas sales, film and TV rights, and so on. Again, given that any competent agent should be adding way more than 15-20% to your total earning capacity, we think that’s a perfectly reasonable deal.

You can learn more about literary agent fees and so on here.

Writing communities and building networks

OK, so this point isn’t quite about literary agents, but any serious amateur writer will do themselves a huge service by getting involved with a writing community and especially one that’s very well networked with agents and publishers and professional authors generally. That’s us. We’re here precisely for writers like you. We have a huge community of writers like you, loads of success stories and we are intimately involved with the worldwide publishing industry.

You can join us for free and get a lot of support. Or join us as a premium member and get so much support, you’ll get a nosebleed. Either way, your journey to a literary agent starts here.

Time to find your UK agent match

Literary Agents: The Complete UK List

The list below is a complete list of the top UK literary agents. Simply click on the links and discover the profile summaries for each agent. To get complete access to all data, click here and sign up for your FREE account.

Looking for agents who will love your work?

Take the stress out of querying by searching our database of literary agents from the UK, US, Canada and Australia. View bios at a glance, access exclusive interviews, and build your shortlist of agents in your genre.

Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer’s community