Reading through blogs and tweets from other authors trying to get published I see quite a lot of negativity about the role of literary agents in the process so I thought I’d jot down my experiences to date.
Just under a year ago I finished the third rewrite of my book, a crime/conspiracy novel set in Paris, and felt it was ready to start sending out to agents. I read everything I could find about how I should do it – what to write in a cover letter, how to format the sample chapters, how to write a synopsis etc. It took me a couple of weeks just to draft the first letter.
I didn’t take a blanket approach and instead spend a lot of time reading about each agent I submit to. I don’t want to waste their time or mine by sending to someone who isn’t going to want to represent what I’ve written. I’ve sent a submission to eight agents so far.
The experience is tedious and the waiting is boring but overall it hasn’t been as negative as some make out. Sure, a few agents never respond but they tell you on their submission guidelines if they’re not going to. And yes, a couple of agents have sent template responses but I try to remember that this is a business.
Literary agents are doing a job just like everyone else and some of them are inundated with queries. Some receive hundreds a week. If, in my day job, I received hundreds of emails a week that each required me to read a thirty-page attachment I would probably want to send a standard reply too.
So, fellow writers, let’s cut them a little slack.
Of the agents I’ve submitted to so far, I’ve had two standard responses, two no-replies, two personalised rejections, one suggestion for a rewrite and a full manuscript request that is still pending. That’s 50% of them taking the time to tell me what they think of my writing. I’d say that’s a pretty positive picture of literary agents considering the sheer numbers of enquiries they get.
What I’ve learned to date is that it’s a tricky industry with lots of pitfalls but, some patient writers may be lucky and reap the rewards. I just hope I’m one of them.
To read more about what the agents might be up to during the dreaded waiting time, read this blog here by agent Carly Watters.
Also, the site where I’ve found the most useful information for getting started on my publishing journey has been Writers Digest.