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Talk to My Agent

I talked to my agent today. I’ve got no news to report, I just like saying that.

Yep, I’ve got a literary agent. Crazy, eh? For those of you unfamiliar with the business side of publishing, let me explain what that means.

When I wrote A Necessary Act, I was a one-stop publishing shop. I wrote, edited, re-wrote, hired a freelance editor, hired a cover designer, formatted the manuscript, uploaded it to Amazon’s CreateSpace and published the dang thing. Then, I had to promote, solicit reviews, sometimes sell copies on my own.

Self-publishing is a lot of work, and I did it all. But for book two, I’ve got someone in my corner that can do all of that stuff. I can just write.

So you may ask, “Why didn’t you get an agent for your first book, dummy?”

First off, please don’t call me “dummy”.

Second, I tried. BELIEVE ME I tried, but getting an agent is no easy thing.

Let me explain.

You write a book. It takes a long time and you put a lot of effort into it and you want to see it published. There are two options, traditional or self-publishing. Both have their pros and cons, which are a whole blog post on their own. But if you want to get traditionally published (what most ‘non-writer’ folk think about when you say you are writing a book) you need a literary agent.

To get an agent, you must survive the dreaded query process. The most common description I’ve heard about querying is “absolutely soul-crushing”.

Basically, you write a query letter asking for representation that consists of who you are and what your book is about (along with a few sample pages), then send it out to literary agents.

Sounds easy, right? Well it isn’t a quick process. With the volume of queries most agents get (often around 20-50 per day), many won’t even get to it for weeks—often months. The standard wait time is usually around eight weeks. That’s 56 days of stewing, nervously checking your email every 38 seconds to see if you have any responses yet, knowing that many agents will only respond if they are interested. Kind of like literary ghosting.

And that’s just the start.

If they DO like your pitch and the sample pages you included showed promise, they will ask to read more. Some ask for a few chapters. Some just ask for the whole thing.

And that wait is often up to six months. If you thought waiting on your query letter was bad, having an agent request your manuscript ups the tension by about 500%. Because if they like THAT, well, you just may get “the call”.

If an agent likes your pitch, then reads your book and thinks “I love this book enough that I want to dedicate the next year of my life working on it knowing that the only way I can make money is if it sells”, she may be ready to offer representation.

But she’s going to want to talk with you first, mostly to make sure you are someone who will be easy to work closely with. That you have compatible visions for your book and career.

And probably that you aren’t a nut bar.

If you make it through all that, congratulations, you’ve scored a literary agent.

I queried A Necessary Act for a year, and actually did fairly well compared to a lot of writers. I sent out around 75 letters and had 10 agents ask to read the full thing. Unfortunately for me, they all passed. But, honestly, a 15% request rate is really good for an author. I often compare it to taking fourth place at the Olympics. I did about as good as I possibly could have while still getting nothing to show for it.

For this upcoming book, I sent about the same amount of letters and got the same amount of requests, but this time I made it all the way through the gauntlet.

Could I have eventually found an agent for my first book had I kept at it? Maybe. Some say you shouldn’t quit until you have over 100 rejections, and many bestselling authors have stories about the countless rejection emails they have for works that went on to be huge hits. But as I explained before, the process is so soul-crushing it eventually wore me down and I decided to self-publish. And, honestly, it was a great experience which taught me a lot. I don’t regret it for a minute.

But, in the back of my mind, I always had the dream of getting traditionally published. Seeing my book in bookstores alongside my favorite authors.

So we’ll see how it goes. Signing with an agent isn’t the finish line by a long shot. Over the summer, she’s given me feedback on my book and we did another full revision.

Next week it goes on submission to publishers, which is basically the query process all over again, only with much higher stakes.

But lucky for me, that’s her job, not mine. I just get to start my next book.

<<if you have any questions about the process or anything, ask me in the comments below>>

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