Publishers Marketplace Writer’s Guide
Using PM to Research Agents

PM contains deep data about literary agents across multiple site features. Here are a variety of ways to view lists of agents, follow and search the deals they make, check their submissions requirements, and more.

Dealmakers presents live, updated pages on about 30,000 agents, agencies, editors and imprints from around the world, with detailed information about their book deal transactions.

Browse Top Dealmakers shows you lists of the most frequent and most prominent buyers and sellers across the more than 50 subject sub-categories that we track.

To view lists of agents, select Dealmaker type: Agents and then choose a category from the Deals category: dropdown menu. You can look broadly (Fiction; Nonfiction; Children’s) but you are probably better off viewing more specific categories, such as Fiction: Mystery/Crime.

There is overlap among our categories, so you may want to check a few different lists. (Some genre fiction might get reported in Fiction: Debut, or Fiction: General/Other.) Also note that we report and track transactions with “digital publishers” (which range from Amazon Publishing, Tor.com and Carina Press to Entangled, Mango, Diversion Books, and more) in a separate set of categories and lists.

You should consider each top Dealmakers page as a numbered list rather than a ranked list. We list people based on their volume of reported transactions only, over the past year—so these are frequent dealmakers. You can also see their “overall” deals in the category over time listed as a secondary reference point. To surface a list of agents making sizable transactions—for deals of $100,000 or more—click the second tab at the top of any Dealmakers list, “Six-figure+ deals.”

The Deals database provides different way of searching the same core set of deal transactions.

Either from the Deals page or through Site Search, you can search the deals data for keywords of interest beyond the subject categories. (So within Mystery/Crime you can look specifically for “cozy” series; “historical” mysteries; “procedural” series; etc. “Historical” fiction can be found across most of the fiction sub-categories using the keyword search.)

“Browse deals” is the way to research a specific sub-category over time.

We host PM Member Pages for about 700 individual agents. These pages are controlled and posted by individuals, so the content will vary from page to page (and this is the one part of our site that is not reviewed, edited or controlled by PM staff). Many agents have posted their submission requirements and other helpful information for prospective clients.

Please note, the contact information posted on our Dealmakers pages and in our other datasets is professional contact information for peers (such as acquiring agents). For best success with your search, please do not try to contact an agent without checking their submission requirements and procedures, either on their PM Member Page or their freestanding website. Many agents have dedicated email addresses and protocols that you must use in order to have your work considered!

Another way to identify agents of interest is by searching the names of authors whose work you think is similar to see who represents them. Our Who Represents database draws from the deals data but also includes other sources (catalogs, rights guides, etc.) so you may find additional information there. Make sure to search by the author’s name only; don’t use book titles. (Who Represents does not try to serve as a comprehensive title database, since that function is better served by other websites. Generally, when we use a title it’s as a citation, to tell you when we acquired the data. Also, authors will sometimes switch agents, and depending upon their representation agreements, rights to particular titles may or may not stay with the original agent.)

Another common recommendation from agents and authors is that you follow all recent deal transactions—either in your particular sub-category, or across the whole marketplace, to get a better understanding of what’s selling now. As a PM member, you can simply monitor the new Deals page, or you can enroll for regular newsletter package (Publishers Lunch Deluxe Monday through Friday; Lunch Weekly Deluxe presenting the week’s deals, on Monday mornings) and/or our Daily Deals email. You can also use our Deal Tracker if you want to follow new deals made by particular agents, agencies, editors and imprints.

Finally, a number of authors and agents have posted their own guides to using Dealmakers and other PM resources, including these helpful pages:

It's worth repeating what we mentioned in “How do I use your site to research agents?”: Publishers Marketplace collects, edits and verifies data about buyers and sellers of literary properties, but inclusion in our data is not an endorsement of any kind.

As others advise in some of the useful “tutorial” pages from authors and agents that we link, it's helpful to look at our data closely to see what it says—and does not say—about any particular agent.

Factors you may wish to consider include:

  • Do they have any reported six-figure sales, or books with “Bestseller history” records included?
  • Have they sold regularly to imprints at the largest publishing conglomerates (imprints of HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster) or other established traditional houses that you know?
  • Do they specialize in “digital publishers” and/or other small presses only?
  • Look at the extent of the agent's track record: how long have they been selling?
  • Look at the consistency of how frequently their deals have appeared
  • Check the track record and reputation of the agency/agencies they work for (if any). You can search for them in the Lunch News archive at PM as well.
More Useful Information for Writers

Here are more answers to some of writers' frequent questions about making best use of PM.

Authors can use the Rights Board to let agents, publishers and/or other sub-licensees (international publishers, film studios, audio publishers, etc.) know about your work.

You can also create your own PM Member Page using the tools found at the top of the Your Account page, to feature more information about your skills and experience and to pitch your book. The member page has a checkbox you can use to flag your entry for agents searching for clients to represent.

For extra attention, you can use our Feature Me self-service ads to showcase your work on some of the most visited PM pages. (Please note that Feature Me is designed to link to a web page featuring your work, or else you can use a mailto link.). Both are displayed on the homepage.

Why do only some deals have price ranges?

Price information, per the “legend” at the bottom of the main Deals page, is reported by one of the participants. We encourage transparency, and deal reporters have learned there can be business utility in acknowledging sizable transactions, but we cannot require it, since these are all private contracts.

For the past 5 full years (through the end of 2018), on an annual basis, a little over 8 percent of US deals with traditional publishers have been reported as six figures or better. Another 12 percent or so are reported as “nice” or “very nice” deals each year. The distribution of those deals has changed over time, however, with more six-figure deals for nonfiction and somewhat fewer for fiction. The depth and breadth of our reporting and our data remains quite consistent over time. (You may see some theories from agents—e.g. “publishers are allowing fewer six-figure deal reports”—but these are not supported by the data.)

Some writers are surprised that we have only two price categories for deals under $100,000. We know that for the individual author, there is a vast difference between a $5,000 advance and a $45,000 advance. But we are tracking publisher investment across the range of acquisitions and in general terms, those are both at the modest level. We designed our categories to encourage a reasonable and useful level of transparency in describing the general deal size, without requiring people to reveal too much personal financial information.

Why does your house style mash each book deal into one long sentence?

It may not be obvious, but from the start there have been a number of reasons for our “unique” style for reporting deals. These records are consciously designed to be consistent in form and sequence (e.g. author ID, author, title, description, editor, house, price, publication date, agent, agency, territory) and ready for parsing into databases. We eschew adjectives and subjective pitches, and aim to convey a standard set of facts -- on what the book is about, and who is involved in its path to publication. Every deal is important, and every deal qualifies for (or is restricted to, depending upon your perspective), the same type of treatment.

Our deal reports have become the first “notice of record” for many books—often before there are in-house pitch materials, or online listings, etc. That’s why many people declare on Twitter, “It’s official” along with a screenshot of their deal report. Our rigorous and consistent treatment of deals and book descriptions helps everyone involved hone their message from the start. In a world of endless new books, each title benefits from a simple, well-crafted description that gets deployed in house, with accounts, across sub-rights and press pitches and beyond. A well-crafted deal report is a great start for conveying what makes a book special—and you’ll often find editors and agents recommending that writers study the PM deal descriptions to figure out how to position their own title.

Does PM record all book deals?

No, we report only a portion of book deals. It’s a large universe of transactions, and until we started Publishers Lunch and PublishersMarketplace.com there was no database of book deals of any kind. Our files are robust and this is a unique dataset, but a number of deals go unreported.

So does that mean not all agents and editors are covered by PM?

There's a myth that some of the best known agents do not report their deals and therefore are not represented in our database. Our deals are reported by any authorized participant—which includes the editor, publicist, rights buyers and sellers, and even the author. Many prominent deals are reported by the publisher or other participants besides the agent, so we still have meaningful and representative data on pretty much every working agent, whether or not they choose to report deals themselves.

There's a similar myth that tries to dismiss or diminish our deal reports as “self reported.” As noted above, we receive and will post deal reports from any verifiable participant in a related transaction. But also as noted, these are all private business transactions that are not formally recorded in any public records. So essentially all book deal reports—here, or in any other venue—are “self reported” (as are pretty much all deal reports you see for films, TV shows, actors, etc.).

Book sales are tracked by NPD Bookscan (and they have a separate service for ebook sales, PubTrack Digital). Until recently, this was only available to publishers and agents, through expensive annual subscriptions. But now writers who are PM members can “subscribe” to a monthly Bookscan Data Package to research real sales on particular titles of interest. That means you can follow sales of your own titles, or you can research related titles (or books represented by agents you are considering).

The Data Package lets you follow up to 5 ISBNs every month, showing weekly updates on print sales (and monthly updates on ebook sales, if the data is available). You can switch the 5 ISBNs that you follow from month to month.

As part of a regular PM membership, you can also use our popular Book Tracker to automatically follow the sales rank of titles at Amazon.com and BN.com. (Sales rank is a relative measure; it does not indicate actual copies sold.) This feature will also retain detailed “histories” that show the sales rank over time; note price changes at Amazon; match any bestseller list appearances over time; and show reviews from our reviews database. It also monitors “availability” at Amazon, to help members track the in-stock status of key books.

Our focus is the traditional “book trade” though many self-published authors pursue a “hybrid” path that overlaps with trade partners. Self-published authors can use a Member Page to promote their books and seek interest from rights buyers (audio; film/tv; international publishers) or agents to represent those rights. The Rights Board is available for similar purposes.

The Deals database and Dealmakers feature can be used to research sales for self-published titles—to traditional publishers, as well as to rights buyers of all kinds. And our Publishers Lunch news reports are the industry standard and often include information that is of interest to self-published authors as well.

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