The Search for a Literary Agent

When I first started writing the query letter, I thought my brain would explode. How does one take a 100,000 word novel and chop it down to 250 words, not tell the ending, and tease the agent enough to make them request samples or the entire manuscript? Daunting–yes. Frustrating. Yes. Impossible. No. I started thinking about my favorite books and their dust jackets. How did the summary of those books capture my attention?

So I modeled my query letter after books in my genre and sent my queries out. I told myself not to expect too much. To not get my hopes up. Of the first twenty-five, all of the literary agents sent rejections. I sent out twenty-five more. All rejected. I decided that there must be something wrong with my query letter, so I made updates. I sent out more. Got more rejections. Updated my query letter again and again. And by the sixth update, agents began to bite.

My stats so far:
Total Queries Sent: 143
Total Rejections to Date: 135
Waiting on Responses: 8
Requests for a partial manuscript: 0
Requests for a full manuscript: 0

(Sigh) No luck so far with agents that had the full manuscript. Very generous and helpful comments, though. They liked my character–just didn’t love her. Oh well, (shrug) I’ll find one eventually.


More on Literary Agents

Some people have asked me why go with a literary agent? There are lots of other alternatives to getting published. Places like Amazon’s CreateSpace or Barnes & Noble provide a way to market, promote, and sell your material. With the burgeoning e-reader market, these places would seem like a viable and easy way to get published. So, why choose a literary agent who gets a cut of 10-15% of your earnings?

The popularity of e-books have exploded in the past couple of years, but people continue to go to book stores and still buy books. Printed books may have competition, but they’re not dead yet. Depending on what source your looking at, ebooks only account for about three to five percent of the publishing market. A book in hard cover or paperback still has the greatest potential of reaching a larger audience.

While you can self publish and hope to reach your target audience, a literary agent’s job is to know the market. What’s trending and what isn’t. They have established relationships with editors and publishing houses, and can negotiate the best deal for you. After all they’re getting 10-15% of your cut too and often don’t get paid until you do. As a writer, I don’t have time to research the market, or get to know publishing houses, who more often than not, would only associate with literary agents anyway. The entire process may take well over two to five years before my book is actually published, but the relationships I will cultivate will be entirely be worth the wait.