I’ve seen a number of articles on querying agents and receiving rejections, and readers often ask the same question: how does an agent determine whether or not she wants to request a full manuscript based on a first glance of a one-page query letter and a sample chapter of your book?
Your writing ability.
Wow, if only it were that simple, right? If only that was all it took to make an agent grab the phone and give you a personal phone call, demanding that you accept her offer of a free plane ticket to New York so you could sign a contract right now. Don’t let me fool you for even a second into thinking that you don’t need incredible writing talent to find an agent, I just want you to understand that it’s not the only thing you need.
The truth is, there are an endless number of variables that determine your ability to land an agent. NOTE: I would be an evil, evil person if I didn’t point out to you that landing an agent does NOT mean landing a publishing deal. I can’t even count how many authors I’ve met in my years in “the biz” who were ready to go buy that beach house because they signed with an agent, only to have that agent work her ass off for two years trying to sell the book to a publisher and then ultimately have to sever the contract after she couldn’t sell the book.
One thing that a lot of people on the outside of publishing don’t realize is that your agent doesn’t eat unless your book sells. MOST (not all) publishers pay out royalties on a quarterly basis, AND they often pay those royalties out one quarter behind. We’re talking large publishing houses with hundreds of titles published per year. So essentially, YOU get paid for the book sales that happened between January and March at the end of the following quarter (June).
Guess when your agent gets her fifteen percent? After your royalties are determined by the publisher.
She can’t eat if your book won’t sell. And if you’re querying agents who know their stuff, they’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the pulse of the publishing industry and know what sells to the publishers they have relationships with.
Your book might be the most stellar, grammatically correct book she’s ever read. But if it’s about sparkly vampires fighting with werewolves for the fragile, falls-down-a-lot girl (why yes, I do have anger issues with paranormal romance, why do you ask?), the agent can’t sell that to a publisher. It’s been done. And even if it’s a great story, she’s going to have to reject it with those lovely words: “Thank you for letting me read your submission of DUSK. While it has merit, it’s not right for my needs at this time. Best of luck finding a home for your book elsewhere.”
Does that mean no one on the planet wants to read your book? Of course not. It just means an agent doesn’t feel like a major publisher will take it on and that she won’t waste her time and your hopes on pushing it to publishers. That’s when you have to explore all of your options in publishing and determine the right course of action for you and your book.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Mercy Pilkington is the CEO of Author Options, a full-service solutions provider for authors and publishers. Her sense of humor leans a bit to the sarcastic side, hence her overuse of the word crap. She is looking for romance titles that do not involved chiseled men with giant penises, and no more vampires unless there is something stunningly different about them that doesn’t involve sparkling. www.authoroptions.com
- “Paying to Publish…Vanity or INSANITY?” – by Mercy Pilkington (authorshelpingauthors.wordpress.com)
- “You’ve written a novel, congratulations! Now what? AKA – 8 Steps to Writing a Query Letter” – by Debra L Hartmann (authorshelpingauthors.wordpress.com)
- Author Solutions’ dances into the DIY e-book market with Booktango (reviews.cnet.com)
- Publishing Questions (gedwardsmithblog.wordpress.com)
- “Choosing a Publisher or Self-Publishing” by Stefan Vucak (authorshelpingauthors.wordpress.com)
- How to find a literary agent (joylovelyjoy.wordpress.com)
- Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know (reviews.cnet.com)
- The Lamest Part About Being an Indie Writer (And Why It’s Awesome) Part II: Three Stories About Agents and Publishers (aservantwriting.com)