18 Top Literary Agents on the West Coast
When people think of the book industry they tend to think of the big apple, much the same way most people tend to think of Hollywood when they think of the movie industry. But while New York City is probably the place where you’ll find the most publishers and literary agents, it’s not the only place.
In fact, one of the things that many writers are shocked to discover when they first start their publishing journey is the innumerable amount of literary agents located all across the country.
So where’s one place that you can find an abundance of literary agents that holds a candle to NYC? If you guessed, Los Angeles on the west coast, you’re pretty darn close.
The west coast has a variety of literary agents, all waiting to find that next bestselling manuscript—which could just be yours.
If you’re not familiar with them or just want to do a little background research on these agents, the following list of 18 top literary agents on the west coast, with a particular emphasis on California and Washington, is a good place to start.
Located in La Jolla, California, the Margret McBride literary agency is known for spiritual and self-help books by The Secret contributor John Assaraf, and even business success books by author Joel Baker. The agency began in San Diego in 1980 and was founded by none other that Margret McBride herself. The agency is known for selling to a variety of well-known publishers, from Simon & Schuster to HarperCollins. Although the agency is known for self-help and non-fiction books, it also accepts fiction and memoir submissions.
2. Amy Levenson
A graduate of the University of Washington, Amy Levenson is a literary agent in Seattle and the name of her agency is Blue Heron Literary. Amy represents both literary fiction and genre fiction (especially young adult and middle grade) and nonfiction writers of memoir, and biographies. She approaches both major publishers and independent publishing houses on behalf of authors. If you want to submit a fiction manuscript to Amy, send a query letter, synopsis, along with the first 3 chapters of your book and your biography as an author. Take a look at this page for full details of how to make a submission, along with information on what to include if you plan on submitting a nonfiction manuscript.
Established by Andrea Brown in 1981, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency has represented a wide range of well-known literary books, including bestsellers like Thirteen Reasons Why and Crank. Associate agent Jennifer March Soloway is definitely the person to talk to at this Northern California agency if you write children, middle grade or young adult fiction. Like a lot of other professionals in the industry, Soloway really knows her stuff when it comes to good writing, and she has a very keen editorial eye. For her, good fiction is all about raising questions in the reader’s mind that keeps them coming back for the answer.
4. Jill Marr
Jill Mar is one of several agents at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Sandra Dijkstra, a literary agent who’s been practicing for over 35 years, is the founder of the agency and is known for her keen sense for good literature. Dijkstra is so good at what she does, Newsweek dubbed her as the “best agent in the west.” This agency is a particularly a good fit for all writers since it accepts commercial fiction and literary fiction as well as non-fiction. For writers that are especially interested in genre fiction, Jill Marr is the person to query. Particularly interested in horror, romantic suspense, thrillers and mysteries, Marr has sold books to publishers ranging from St. Martin’s Press to HarperCollins.
Mandy Hubbard is founder and also an agent at Emerald City Literary Agency, which is located a stone’s throw from Seattle. Mandy founded the agency in 2015, and after previously becoming a published author, she found herself being drawn to the business side of publishing and subsequently developed a career as a literary agent. Gaining work experience as an agent for other agencies, by the time she has founded her own agency, she had sold nearly 70 books to major publishing houses. If you write genre romance, middle grade, young adult, or have an LGBTQ+ element to your book, Mandy would welcome your submission.
Although it’s a smaller agency, Veritas is one of the older agencies based in San Francisco. Founded by Katherine Boyle, the San Francisco agency is home to three agents: Katherine Boyle and associates Michael Carr and Chiara Rosati. Veritas publishes works varying from young adult fiction to women’s studies and is an especially good fit for writers that are looking for their niche, but don’t have any one particular genre they write.
For children’s writers or writers of historical fiction, mystery or middle grade, you might find that Bradford Literary Agent Natalie Lakosil is the right girl for you. She’s been a member of this San Diego based agency since 2011. The incredible thing about the Bradford Literary agency, which was established in 2001 by Laura Bradford, is that it’s a boutique agency with a long list of bestselling authors. Unlike big agencies like Trident, boutique agencies give writers the one-on-one time they often need with their agents in order to craft the best version of the manuscript possible. This agency is known for representing some of the hottest authors on the market today including Anya Bast, Sarah Castille, and Lauren Dane.
Elizabeth Wales is a co-founder, owner, and principal agent at Wales Literary Agency. A veteran of the publishing industry who started her career in 1980 at Oxford University Press, Elizabeth runs this agency in Seattle, which was founded in 1990. The agency has represented many New York Times bestsellers, bestselling works that have made their way onto other national bestseller lists, and which have won numerous awards. The organization represents quality fiction and narrative nonfiction and accepts digital submissions only. Take a look at this page for further details. Expect a response of 1-3 weeks to your query.
Let’s start off by getting something straight here: there is probably no relation here to Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennett. However, as a member of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency, even agent Elizabeth Bennett can’t deny that her name has probably only heightened her literary prowess. This particular agent has an interesting history in the publishing world, having worked for publishers such as Scholastic, Reader’s Digest, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This is an especially good agent to reach out to if you’re writing a book that has the potential to become a series.
Authors of board books, middle grade, and graphic novels should also consider reaching out to Bennett as those are also her areas of interest. One of the reasons why the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency is among the best west coast agencies is because it’s about providing writers with the keys to be successful. That includes offering an online course for writers, called a path to publishing, which enables them to learn how to become successful authors.
Writers of middle grade and young adult fiction should definitely seek out Adah Megged Nuchi. As one of the agents at Jill Corcoran Literary Agency, Nuchi is interested in stories that surround the topic of immigrant and multicultural themes, as well as upmarket adult fiction that includes smart romances and 20th century historical fiction. The Jill Corcoran Literary Agency is known for representing a wealth of YA and middle grade novels, however, which makes it a perfect fit for children’s authors and middle grade writers that are looking for a good place to get their foot into the publishing market. Titles include: The Great Garden Mystery, Confession’s from the Principal’s Kid, and Who I Kissed. Another really interesting aspect of this agency is that it also represents illustrators, something that can come in handy for writers that are looking to pair their work with an illustrator.
If you’re looking for a high quality agency that offers a wealth of experience and publishing know-how, but still maintains that boutique feel, then check out the Knight Agency. Established by Senior agent Deidre Knight in 1996, this agency has published more than 800 titles in a wide variety of genres, from romance and memoir to business and self-help. The west coast agency is home to about ten agents and has published a wealth of bestselling books, with titles including Warcraft, Cape Storm, and The Second Time Around. Few west cost agents or agencies can boast of selling to every major publisher, but that’s just one of the many facts about the Knight Agency that make it unique. That includes major publishers like Audible and Harlequin. Additionally, this agency handles overseas rights and has even had multiple books become motion pictures.
For writers that aren’t interested in the NYC/ Hollywood spotlight and just want a quality agent that has the time to devote for one-on-one help and advice, this is the west coast agency you want. If you’re a California local/ native, you may be familiar with the name if you’ve ever heard of the Law Office of Paul S. Levine. Levine is a literary agent with a peculiar background, having worked as an entertainment lawyer for years. That experience, however, transferred over well when he decided to open up the literary agency in 1996. Since then, he’s sold more than 150 books to a wide variety of editors at numerous publishing houses. Works he’s sold include non-fiction and fiction titles like Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of the World and Fung Shui Mommy. The Venice, California based agency has sold to a range of well-known publishers including Prometheus Books and Rutgers University Press.
Another small agency which is particularly interested in the more literary vein of publishing is Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises. If you’re a literary author, or the author of a book or novel that explores psychology, social trends, history or health and well-being, this LA agency is definitely one of the first places you want to reach out to. This is also another great place to consider querying if you write poetry for children and young adults, as well as contemporary and historical YA fiction. The agency was founded by Pantheon and Vintage editor Betsy Amster and also features associate agent and YA specialist Mary Cummings.
Writers that are looking for an agency that will give them the attention and care they feel they deserve might just be right at home at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency. Establish in 1994 by (you guess it!) Angela Rinaldi, the agency has represented a wide range of fiction and non-fiction works including Who Moved My Cheese and Verge. This LA agency is typically looking for both commercial and literary works that include mystery, upmarket contemporary fiction, gothic suspense, and multicultural fiction. In addition, the agency also represents non-fiction works that include biographies, memoirs, health, and business.
If you’re looking for a high quality agency and are interested in an agency that tends to be more selective about the kinds of titles it takes on, you might just like the Linda Chester Literary Agency. Founded in La Jolla, California by Linda Chester in 1992, this agency represents books that explore a wide range of topics, from politics and current events to health and beauty. Typically, writers of upmarket fiction, literary fiction, memoir and biographies will have more success with this agency. However, being selective about titles has really paid off for this agency, which represents renowned and best-selling authors like Wally Lamb and Richard Carlson.
Those who write young adult and middle grade fiction as well as middle grade nonfiction might especially appreciate the experience and fresh prospective that Taylor Martindale Kean brings to the table. An agent at Full Circle Literary, Kean represents numerous well known and bestselling YA authors, including Emery Lord, Tim Bradley, and Diana Rodriguez Wallach. If you hope to someday be an award-winning author, Full Circle Literary is one of the agencies that’s known for finding those diamonds in the rough. Established in 2005, the agency has sold books to numerous publishers including Arthur A. Levine Books, Viking and Macmillan. In addition, this agency has a pretty good turn over rate when it comes to movie deals, having signed over movie rights to major entertainment companies like Disney.
17. Roz Foster
If you’ve heard of popular non-fiction titles like Bad Moon Rising and hope to one day be published at a major and well-established University Press, Roz Foster is most definitely your girl. As one of the agents at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, she’s particularly known for specializing in non-fiction works that focus on politics, history, sociology, and cultural studies. However, she’s also known for representing literary and commercial fiction, especially those that center on suspenseful plots and multicultural themes. Her books tend to get sold to university presses like Oxford and Yale.
18. Lara Perkins
You may want to reach out to Lara Perkins if you’re a picture book author or illustrator, or if you’ve recently completed a YA or middle grade novel. Here’s the really neat thing about Perkins, an agent at Andrea Brown – she’s more interested in unique voices, character driven novels rather than a particular genre. That means that as a writer, you can submit to her no matter the genre you write in, whether it’s fantasy, historical, mystery, or science fiction. Her books have sold to well known, established publishers both big and small, including Candlewick Press, HarperCollins, Knopf, and Scholastic.
Here’s the deal:
No matter what kind of writer you are or the type of manuscript you happen to have, you have the opportunity to be successful when it comes to finding an agent. The key, however, is to seek out an agent that is genuinely interested in the type of work you’ve created. The biggest mistake that most writers make is that they query agents, or agencies, that have no interest, or expertise, in the kinds of books they’ve written. Don’t be that writer who sends a commercial romance novel to a literary agent who specializes in poetry and sells most of their books to university presses!
Instead, take the time to research the agent. If you’re still not sure if they’d be interested in your work, it’s never a bad idea to send an email and just ask if they represent a particular kind of genre. Most people will be more than happy that you inquired and will be willing to point you in the right direction.