Yeah, we got one, too.
Finding A Literary Agent: A Numbers Game
When it comes to writing, when it comes to life, there are some things that can wait for inspiration, and there are those things that we just have to do. Finding an agent to represent your project falls into the latter camp, and that’s because it’s a numbers game.
Some of our authors have found their agent on the 100th reach out, the 83rd, the 17th, the 1st. There’s no rhyme or reason. While that may strike you as discouraging, the productive takeaway is that all we have to focus on is our own efforts. All we can do is keep reaching out. That’s it.
To put some figures to it, we recommend going to 6 to 8 agents every three weeks, to strike the right balance of generating momentum while ensuring things stay manageable and organized; it’s important you’re able to track your efforts, perhaps through a spreadsheet, in order to manage the air traffic control effectively.
Reaching out can be time-consuming. Every agent has a special twist. We want the first 20 pages. We want the first 40 pages. We want a synopsis of 800 words. We want a synopsis of 1,000 words. While these preferences can create a headache, that’s what agents have to do in order to avoid getting blanketed by submissions. Tailoring your pitch to fit within their parameters is crucial, as is infusing some sense of why you are going to this specific person in the very first paragraph of your query.
It can be a challenge not to be emotionally reactive throughout the process. All kinds of psychological demons might surface: your fear of rejection, your entitlement, and the like. I can’t believe they wouldn’t even write me back, you might find yourself thinking. Or maybe you come across an agent who’s open to queries and recently published a comp title, so now you’re getting excited. You’re thinking, This is the person! And you fall asleep with their name written on a piece of paper under your pillow. And then they’re not the person…but maybe your person is over here instead…
The point is, you can’t think of this process as an evaluator of your self-worth. There are so many factors at play; what this agent is looking for, what they feel they can do a good job selling, what they think is selling at all. You could be rejected because they just represented someone very similar to you and it didn’t work out, or because they just represented someone very similar to you and it did work out. But really, it doesn’t matter. Don’t waste your time having emotional reactions to these things, and don’t waste your time trying to suss out why the agent you thought was the perfect fit said no. Instead, put that time and energy into continuing the search.
Here at Book Architecture, we provide support for your agent search as part of our Phase Three services, which is marketplace assistance and project management for a completed manuscript. (More on that here).
Phase Three can include the generation of a query letter and synopsis for a fiction manuscript, or the cover letter and nonfiction book proposal for a non-fiction project, as well as a database of literary agents hand-selected for your project or publishers you can approach without an intermediary.
The databases we put together for our clients aren’t constructed with any proprietary tools that you can’t take advantage of, but we have an efficient methodology to cull through the online platforms. QueryTracker, Publisher Marketplace, and The Directory of Literary Agents are our most utilized, but it’s really a matter of which interface feels the most comfortable and intuitive for you.
Then, the assembling of the actual database is a rather manual affair. We sort through the mass for the agents who work within your genre, follow the links to see if they’re open to queries currently or if the office is closed, and take note of how they accept submissions and what it is they’re actively interested in.
As you can imagine, it’s not the most riveting work we do. But the main reason why we keep doing this, and why it’s part of Phase Three, is because it feels really good to be the one to find an agent that’s right for a project. In fact, there’s nothing quite like it.