Getting an Agent to Rep Your Novel Is Hard AF. Here’s How I Did It.

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Getting an Agent to Rep Your Novel Is Hard AF. Here’s How I Did It.


Literary brokers do away with on a small percentage of the books they’re pitched, so how can you differentiate your self from the rest of their learning pile?

15 min learn

One in 6,000. 

Those are the odds of an unpublished author convincing a literary agent to indicate your novel, in step with Label Malatesta at

“The supreme book brokers can safe as many as 1,500 queries per month, and so they occasionally most efficient provide to indicate roughly six novel customers per year,” he writes. Of these six novel customers, three will presumably were printed in fairly diverse areas already. By that math, in a calendar year, a top agent may possibly simply internet as many as 18,000 queries and signify as few as three unpublished authors from that pile. Others are extra optimistic, asserting that an unpublished author has a one in 500 likelihood of discovering illustration. 

No matter the actual math, two facts dwell the identical: 1. It’s wildly no longer easy to form an agent’s ardour, and 2. That keenness is kind of major in present so that you simply can coach the light newsletter route. 

I may possibly simply quiet beginning by explaining that I know first-hand how no longer easy this route of may possibly simply even be. I submitted my first fiction book (a delusion novel for younger adults) to dozens of literary brokers, with no success. It took about six years to write the book — I began it in excessive college with visions of turning into the following Christopher Paolini (who reached No. 1 on The Fresh York Times bestseller checklist with Eragon, a book he began at 15) and accomplished it while attending Fresh York University’s postgraduate publishing program. I majored in English in college and took workshops in science-fiction writing taught by fairly diverse printed authors. I conception my book used to be, if a shrimp of tough across the perimeters, as attention-grabbing as most of the broadcast works I had learn. 

But after about six weeks of researching and submitting to literary agencies, I knew it wasn’t going to be printed. Most effective two agencies even showed (very) graceful ardour in my book, and I failed to convert that into the rest extra. 

The target used to be that I’d  in the end trace a take care of a publisher, sure, nevertheless there’s the kind of inflamed dash of shriek that many critical publishing homes won’t even understanding at your manuscript if you strive to ship it straight to them. 

Mediate of it this blueprint: If the editors at a publishing home are the gatekeepers of literary sort, then the brokers are the first line of protection. Or, build aside in extra effective terms, do away with a understanding at a site for a critical publishing home indulge in Orbit Books, which says, “Must you wish us to pay attention to your novel for newsletter, step one is to get a literary agent…. We get (agented) submissions from writers from all backgrounds.”

They’ll pay attention to any individual who has an agent and robotically reject any individual who doesn’t. You would bag written the following Game of Thrones, and it most likely won’t matter. Possibilities are, the manuscript will be rejected out of hand before a single be aware is ever learn. 

This isn’t out of cruelty — publishers simply bag restricted team and limitless submissions. They would simply quiet be as surroundings pleasurable as most likely with their time, which is why an agent’s recommendation and illustration can bag the total distinction. 

Even with illustration, your book may possibly simply tumble via the cracks. And if it does safe printed with a delicate home, it’ll simply quiet fail to sell as many copies as you’d hope. Nothing is de facto guaranteed unless you bag already got a constructed-in target market (Barack and Michelle Obama inked a $65 million book deal before ever writing a internet page).

Must you’d pick to skip all of this crimson tape and self-post your book, I wouldn’t blame you. But when you safe settle on to strive the light route, then with any luck my experiences let you safe there. 

Related: How to Write a Book (and Actually Attain It) in 5 Steps

Why is it so laborious to safe a literary agent to indicate you?

Let’s beginning with the battle before we safe to the success (it makes for the next legend arc). 

The first component you may possibly presumably simply quiet know is that literary brokers will quiz a fiction book to be accomplished before they even learn an introductory letter. Within the event that they indulge in that letter, they’ll learn the first five to 10 pages. Within the event that they indulge in that, they may possibly inquire of for 50 pages, then the total work. Then they’ll share the book with others in the agency to understanding if their colleagues share the identical idea. 

Meaning you are guilty for a killer ask letter that grabs their consideration, individualized for every and each agent (“I’ve you would be drawn to my memoir since you signify this author” or “I know you admire this vogue”). The memoir needs to beginning strong — many brokers will quit on your book straight in the event that they undercover agent “Prologue” on the end of internet page one — and, most daunting of all, a accomplished novel before you ever beginning this route of. 

Oh, and at least of this work, if an agent decides they’ll pass on your book, essentially the most easy you may possibly doubtlessly hope for is a bag rejection. Many literary brokers don’t even answer to all of their submissions nevertheless as a change post one thing on their firm site indulge in, “Must you don’t hear lend a hand from me in two months, it formula I passed.”

Despite all of these challenges, most on-line articles, coaches and guidebooks will expose you that if you failed to safe an agent, your pitch simply wasn’t gorgeous ample, because apt quality will in the end get a condo. They’ll expose you that that you simply may possibly build aside your self sooner than the pack just by researching which brokers will be most drawn to your memoir and writing a killer ask letter about your self and your book. They’ll focus on having an overwhelming hook in the gap pages of the memoir to entice an uninvested reader.

My first book failed to private the total aspects wanted to bag it via this gauntlet.

All of these pointers are necessary — necessary, the truth is. To illustrate, let’s flip the upsetting numbers we began with: If an agent receives 18,000 submissions per year and takes on six entire authors, that formula they bag got to reject 17,994 submissions. That’s 99.97% of submissions. Give them any motive at all — misspelling their establish, a typo in the ask letter, a formatting shriek — and so they’ll tear on to the following memoir. 

I as soon as submitted my book with “Computer screen Modifications” quiet on. The agent opened the Google Doc and chanced on extra crimson ink and crossings-out than exact memoir. Easy rejection.

That’s why you may possibly presumably simply quiet learn over your submissions extra than one cases before submitting. You would simply quiet also ship the pages as a PDF, when most likely, that will bag a cleaner model of your work and enable you to do away with far from my rookie mistake. 

But even though you do away with far from the pitfalls that, expectantly, 90% of authors tumble into, you’re quiet one of 1,800 most attention-grabbing submissions. If that agent accepts real six authors per year, you’ve most efficient increased your odds of getting permitted from 0.03% to 0.3%. Now not exactly encouraging. Even the extra optimistic odds (one in 500) tear your potentialities to spherical 4%, which is decrease than Harvard’s acceptance fee.

Must you come from a sales background, you may possibly presumably simply no longer think that quantity is discouraging, either — you most likely already know about rejection and casting a huge salvage. Khalid Saleh writes that the practical conversion fee on ecommerce internet sites in the U.S. is much less than 3%, and substitute has been booming of unhurried for these corporations. The downside here is that a rejection from one agent represents a rejection from the total agency. It’s conception of sinful bag to simultaneously pitch extra than one brokers from the identical firm, and brokers will pass alongside pitches to each and each other in the event that they suspect it’s the next fit for a colleague. 

You would simply quiet, and will most likely bag to, ask dozens and dozens of most likely brokers. Creator’s Digest says you must no longer quit except you’ve tried no much less than 80, and it’s easy to understanding why: Even essentially the most easy tips and most successful books can tumble via the cracks. We’ve all heard the tales about how 12 publishers turned down the Harry Potter sequence. Stephen King admitted in his work, On Writing, “By the point I used to be fourteen the nail in my wall would now no longer strengthen the burden of the rejection slips I impaled on it. I modified the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

Writing 80 queries will do away with fairly diverse effort and time — you’ll settle on to ascertain each and each agent’s background and fervour and personalize your letter for that particular person. Given these restraints and the restricted risk of agencies in the U.S., looking to ask one thing indulge in 3,000 fairly diverse corporations may possibly very smartly be no longer handy.

So, if you may possibly’t exercise a brute drive blueprint to getting an agent, how can you toughen your odds?

Realize that your competition is no longer fairly diverse authors

Literary brokers claim they’ll in overall expose right via the first internet page or two of learning whether or no longer the author has the writing chops to be conception of. That starts, surely, with the ask letter, which shrimp print your memoir, your background and why your book fits with this particular agent. 

The downside, on the other hand, is that essentially the most easy writer on this planet and the worst are quiet contained by the identical medium: dimension 12 shaded font, preferably in Times Fresh Roman, on dull white pages. There is rarely always a quilt on a ask to bag interaction a memoir by, no cinematic pictures or booming soundtracks to distinguish between the most contemporary Christopher Nolan blockbuster and the home video. Each person is equal on the salvage page, that will be both releasing and frustrating. 

On the one hand, this medium enables any individual to compete with the titans of the substitute, even on a shrimp funds. On the fairly diverse hand, the boundaries of text bag it no longer easy for your memoir to face out from fairly diverse submissions. 

Indulge in you ever ever turned on a Netflix present for background sound — order, Downton Abbey — after which realized some time later that three episodes bag passed and as well you may possibly presumably simply bag no clue what came about in any of them? You bought distracted on social media, needed to solution three work-related emails and made lunch. The still of the present real blurred into one scene, and as well you couldn’t take out any particular moment upon reflection.

Now have confidence a literary agent with a slush pile (sure, that’s the truth is the substitute timeframe) of many of or hundreds of submissions. Of their role, how carefully would you learn every single submission, lustrous that the following day is most efficient going to raise extra queries. Giving even a first fee memoir the supreme thing regarding the doubt will most efficient lengthen your workload for added learning later. Would you do away with your time with each one, and offers the author the supreme thing regarding the doubt after they bag a shrimp error? Almost definitely no longer.

You would as a change understanding via and undercover agent whether or no longer one of many tales has a title you indulge in and skip the others. You would mediate on impulse that you simply don’t the truth is feel indulge in learning a drama and would pick one thing lighter to take up your Tuesday morning. 

You would doubtlessly bag fairly diverse snap decisions — some of which would bag to safe with the typical of the submission. That is in no blueprint to order literary brokers are slothful. It’s simply to remind you that they’re folk. Most folk real don’t bag the respect span or time to safe that with such an overflow of shriek in 2021.

Here, then, is your largest competition in getting an agent: Now not any of the submissions in the slush pile, nevertheless the actual slush pile itself. Now not the writers, nevertheless simply the time it takes to sift via all of them. 

Related: The Entrepreneur’s Handbook to Writing a Book

Give literary brokers a motive to understanding forward to your work

Each person knows there’s an limitless gulf between having to safe one thing and wanting to safe it. We also know that many subjective and ingenious judgments are tinted by our emotional inform — a tragic song hits extra tough after a breakup, a rom-com would be higher for a enjoyable night out with chums.

Literary brokers bag to learn via each one of their submissions, nevertheless that doesn’t mean they like all of them. It is most likely you’ll be ready to’t settle when acknowledged agent will be discovering your work or how they’ll be feeling for the time being. 

What you may possibly presumably safe, on the other hand, is give them a motive to care about you and your ask. Produce them have interaction your submission no longer as one in 6,000, nevertheless fairly, by itself deserves. 

My first novel ask, the actual person that failed to get an agent, acquired most efficient two responses seeking extra of the memoir. One of them — the one to whom I in the end sent the “Computer screen Modifications” model — attended my alma mater, which I talked about in the transient email I sent to her. 

My second novel ask used to be in an identical blueprint rejected out of hand by nearly each person. Out of the total areas I sent the letter, most efficient one used to be attractive to learn the actual book, quilt to quilt. 

My pleasant friend worked on the agency, in the sports activities department, and had most efficient gotten his beginning a year or two before. He had no vitality to push the book via, and merely requested a chum of his in the literary department if she would do away with a understanding. If she didn’t indulge in it, no ruin completed. It used to be a tenuous connection — my pleasant friend’s work colleague — nevertheless it gave her a motive to learn my memoir. In seven years of writing and pitching, she is quiet essentially the most easy agent who learn either of my two tales of their entirety. 

She fell in admire with the memoir, or no much less than its most likely, and as well you’d think that will smartly be the pleased ending. 

In many ways, it used to be the truth is the muse. Behold, she acknowledged the book I conception I’d perfected used to be formula too long and the ending used to be real a shrimp of off. She told me that if I’d flesh out the closing few chapters while defending the total necessary bits in the muse and middle and reducing 150 pages, we would be onto one thing special. 

Before the total lot, I had no conception whether or no longer that used to be even most likely — whether or no longer I had the means to expose the identical or higher memoir with 25% fewer phrases. Share of me didn’t even settle on to strive the rewrite, because how may possibly presumably the book be higher than it already used to be? Hadn’t I already passed the gauntlet?

It took some humility to strive. A willingness to transform issues and kill my literary darlings. Most of all, rewriting the book took persistence and time. I first sent her the memoir in September of 2019. Two years and three drafts later, we’re making ready one most attention-grabbing sequence of line edits before submitting to publishers this tumble. 

The supreme allotment is that she used to be real. I indulge in this draft, with the edits I in the muse hated, higher than the model I began with.

There are quiet no ensures a publisher buys my book, or if one does, that the memoir will get its target market. I don’t quiz to be the following Christopher Paolini anymore. 

But novel authors, myself incorporated, most ceaselessly real need an simply likelihood in a crowded market. They need any individual to the truth is learn the book and mediate its fee — no longer on the first internet page, or the ask letter, nevertheless from the actual memoir that we’ve worked on for years. 

Giving brokers a motive to learn your memoir, to care about you, before they ever lay eyes on your ask can present you with a leg up. 

There’s study on the lend a hand of the associated fee of a warm introduction, too: A Frontiers in Neuroscience survey concluded that listeners most traditional songs they were conversant in. Must you may possibly present that selection of familiarity — an alma mater, a assembly at a convention, a chum of a chum — it the truth is can present a window of opportunity for first-time authors. Strive to safe it organically and smartly sooner than time. This selection of connection will the truth is feel extra indulge in dispute mail if you’re simply DMing them a day before your submission. 

Indicate the literary brokers a nice ardour of their work and their spare time activities. Give them a motive to treat you further indulge in a chum, or no much less than an acquaintance, and never more indulge in one other unwanted email of their inbox. Then, lend a hand up their preliminary ardour with a obedient ask letter and, higher, a book that keeps them riveted. And whenever you have your book is basically the most easy it’ll presumably be, dwell beginning to the necessary criticism that can bag it even higher.

Easy ample, real?

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