An author looking for an agent

How Difficult Is It to Get a Literary Agent?

July 1, 2020
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Many writers ask if it is tough to find the right agent. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Let’s look at the numbers. There are probably no more than a few thousand literary agents in the US. Yet there are hundreds of thousands of writers clamoring at their doors every year. This is the reality of publishing. It is best to know the odds before wading into the game.  

Finding an agent–especially the right right one–requires persistence and hard work. You can improve your chances by first doing your homework. You will want to query those  most likely to represent the kind of work you produce. The obvious example is that you don’t send an adult horror manuscript to a children’s agent. 

Before you begin the querying process, be sure you have edited and polished your work twenty-five times or more. Know your categories. Study what types of books the agent represents. Submit to ten, twenty or more representatives. 

Writers can get dozens or even hundreds of rejections before landing a publishing deal. Chicken Soup for the Soul had 144 rejections before becoming a bestseller.  James Lee Burke received 111 rejections for the Lost Get-Back Boogie. The work was finally published in 1986 and according to the author, it was nominated for the Pulitzer prize.  For more examples, there is a great list of rejections on www.lithub.com

Because the odds are great against being published, you really do need to find an agent. 

Here are some dos and don’ts to help boost your chances of winning. Format your manuscript cleanly and professionally. That means no fancy type or title treatment. Never send a query for a novel before it is complete. Make your query letter interesting. There are many books on query-writing on the Internet. Look up Noah Lukeman on Authorlink for some good advice on query writing. Most importantly wind up with your credentials for writing the story. Agent Peter Miller (see his video interview on Authorlink) will tell you that the most important factor that will convince an agent to epresent you is your personal platform.  Take the time to make yourself into a “brand.” 

If you believe in your work, never, ever give up. 

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This post was written by Doris Booth

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