Understanding the Difference Between Literary Agents and Managers

When it comes to pursuing a career as a writer, securing representation is crucial. However, navigating the world of literary representation can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to understanding the difference between a literary agent and a manager. While both agents and managers can help advance a writer’s career, they have different roles and responsibilities.

Literary agents and literary managers play distinct roles in supporting writers. Licensed literary agents negotiate deals and contracts, securing book deals, film and television rights, etc., for their clients on commission basis. 

Literary managers, while not licensed to negotiate deals, focus on career guidance and skill development, providing feedback on scripts, finding new projects, and offering career advice. Understanding these differences helps writers choose the right type of representation to align with their career goals.

Defining Literary Agents and Managers

Role of a Literary Agent

A literary agent is a professional who represents writers and their written works to publishers, producers, and other potential buyers. They act as a liaison between the writer and the buyer, negotiating contracts, and ensuring that the writer receives fair compensation for their work. Agents are typically paid a commission on the writer’s earnings, usually around 15%.

In addition to handling the business side of a writer’s career, literary agents also provide support and guidance to their clients. They offer feedback on manuscripts, help writers develop their craft, and advise them on career decisions. Literary agents are often well connected in the publishing industry and can help writers get their work in front of the right people.

Role of a Manager

A literary manager is similar to a literary agent in that they represent writers and their written works. However, managers tend to focus more on the creative side of a writer’s career. They work closely with the writer to develop their ideas and help them shape their career path. Managers are often more hands-on than agents, providing feedback on scripts and helping writers find their voice.

Managers also help writers navigate the complex world of Hollywood. They can help writers land meetings with producers and executives, and they can provide guidance on which projects to pursue. Managers are typically paid a percentage of the writer’s earnings, usually around 10%.

Overall, literary agents and managers play important roles in a writer’s career. While agents focus more on the business side of things, managers tend to be more involved in the creative process. Both are essential for writers looking to build successful careers in screenwriting and other forms of writing.

Services Provided by Agents and Managers

When it comes to the services provided by literary agents and managers, there are some similarities, but also some key differences. Both agents and managers work to help their clients get their work in front of the right people, but they approach this goal in different ways.

Pitching and Marketing

One of the primary services provided by literary agents is pitching and marketing. Agents work to get their clients’ work in front of publishers, producers, and other potential buyers. They use their industry connections and knowledge to find the right people to pitch to and to make sure their clients’ work gets the attention it deserves.

Managers, on the other hand, tend to focus more on career development and long-term planning. While they may also help with pitching and marketing, their main goal is to help their clients build a sustainable career in the entertainment industry.

Career Guidance and Development

Another key service provided by both literary agents and managers is career guidance and development. Agents and managers work closely with their clients to help them develop their careers and achieve their goals. This may involve helping them come up with new creative ideas, providing feedback on their work, and helping them navigate the complex world of the entertainment industry.

However, there are some differences in the way agents and managers approach career development. Agents tend to be more focused on the immediate needs of their clients, such as getting them work and negotiating contracts. Managers, on the other hand, tend to take a more long-term approach, helping their clients develop their skills and build a sustainable career over time.

Working with Agents and Managers

Securing Representation

When it comes to securing literary representation, writers have two primary options: literary agents and managers. Both agents and managers can help writers navigate the complex world of the entertainment industry, but there are some key differences between the two.

Literary agents are licensed professionals who are governed by labor law in the state where they do business. They are permitted by law to procure employment for their clients, such as writing assignments, in exchange for a fee. Agents are deal-oriented and focused on making money for their clients. They have established relationships with producers, executives, and other key players in the industry and can use these connections to help their clients secure work.

On the other hand, literary managers are not licensed by the state and cannot legally negotiate deals or contracts for their clients. Instead, they focus on helping their clients develop their careers over the long-term. Managers are more hands-on than agents and work closely with their clients to identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies to help them succeed. They can provide guidance on everything from choosing the right projects to developing their credits and building their brand.

Navigating the Deal-making Process

Once a writer has secured representation, they will need to navigate the deal-making process. This can be a complex and confusing process, but with the right guidance, it can also be incredibly rewarding.

Whether working with an agent or a manager, writers should be prepared to submit their work in a professional and polished form. This may involve submitting a query letter or a spec script, depending on the situation. Once a producer or executive expresses interest in the writer’s work, the agent or manager will negotiate the deal on the writer’s behalf. This may involve everything from negotiating the terms of the contract to securing the writer’s credits and ensuring that they receive the appropriate compensation for their work.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between literary agents and managers is crucial for any aspiring writer or screenwriter looking to break into the industry. While both agents and managers can be instrumental in helping writers secure writing assignments, their roles and responsibilities differ in significant ways.

Agents are governed by labor law in the state that they do business and are primarily focused on procuring employment for their clients for a fee. On the other hand, managers are more entrepreneurial and creative, and their focus is on developing a writer’s career over the long term.

It is important to note that not all literary agencies are created equal, and some may have different specialties or areas of expertise. For example, CAA and Gersh are two of the biggest and most well-known agencies in Hollywood, while Screencraft is a management company that focuses on representing emerging screenwriters.

Ultimately, whether a writer chooses to work with a literary agent or manager will depend on their individual needs and goals. Some writers may prefer the more hands-on approach of a manager, while others may prefer the established connections and resources of a larger literary agency. Regardless of which path a writer chooses, it is important to do their research and find representation that aligns with their career aspirations.