Before starting, let me point out that this thread is in no way to bash or disrespect a literary agent nor their profession. The topic is solely for purposes of understanding how they choose an author they’d like to represent.


Hello there!

This post would be better suited in the Industry Insider section of the forums, so I’ll be moving it there. You’ll get way more answers to your question about agents and the publishing industry!

Thank you!

Nicole, Ambassador


Sounds good, thank you.


You’re welcome! :blush:


Agents are looking for great stories they are passionate about and that they think they can sell. That’s it. Sounds simple but it’s 100% subjective. Everyone is different with different tastes. What one agent loves, another 100 might reject. When I was querying I had a 30% request rate that all turned into rejects where the agent said “liked it, but I don’t love it enough to offer rep.” Yes it’s frustrating, but that’s what happens in a business based on gut feeling and personal opinion.

Think of it this way - of the books you have read over the last year, how many have you re-read at least 10 times? How many books have stayed with you and you can’t stop thinking about them? How many have you gone out of your way to tell all your friends and family about and urged them to buy? If you can think of one book that meets all those criteria - that is the book agents are looking for.


Perhaps. But like I said, a lot of agents have clients that aren’t selling, simply put. Yes, I know they have to be passionate about a story, but obviously book buyers weren’t passionate enough to buy what they loved.

Put it this way, I know it’s based on personal taste, but I also believe that having a few kids (perhaps your own or maybe even relatives) on the back burner that are willing to help you sort through the slush pile could work.

A move like this, could help agents see what kids in a specific target audience are willing to read. Don’t you think? I mean, it worked for JK Rowling. If it wasn’t for a publishers child, we would have never been invited to Hogwarts.

But good points, though, that last part had me thinking. And I love a good debate.


How many manuscripts have you queried? How many full requests per manuscript? What comments are you getting back?

Based on this snippet, my gut says what you’re sending them isn’t strong enough. Is it the writing? The premise? The craft? That I don’t know. But if you’re not getting full requests, you’re not hooking them.

How many novels have you completed overall?

Assuming you’re querying widely in the book’s genre, then I don’t think it’s about you cracking a secret code about what they want so much as you continuing to work on your writing and your craft.


How do you know? I’m really curious as to what sales data you have access to, to make such a sweeping statement. And what do you call “not selling”? 5,000 copies a year? 10,000 copies? What formats - ebook, paperback, hardback, audio? Then what territories does your sales data come from?


Long story short, three partials and one full. I have gotten great responses back—don’t get me wrong. Well great feedback that is.

Most of them (from the top of my head) when saying a full no was like it was a saturated, I think, business and they wasn’t sure who they could sell it to. I have to go back and check.

In total, I have written like five full novels. And three short stories.


Well let’s see, my author friends who have agents have complained about their books not selling well. So I’m getting facts from represented authors. I’m not speaking for every single author who is represented, but a lot that I know haven’t sold well.

You sound like you’re getting a little aggressive. Pipe that down, I’m not here to argue.


How do you feel about DIY publishing to see what happens?


I’ve looked into it. What are your thoughts on that?


I really don’t think she’s arguing.

It’s the problem with small sample, especially if that sample is defining terms for themselves. How are they defining “not selling well”?

Most books don’t earn out. They are profitable for the publisher before they earn out, but still, not earning out is a bad sign for getting future book deals under that name. Publishers don’t want the midlist anymore – they want the big sellers – and the days of nurturing authors along are over.

What are your friends doing to sell more books? Traditionally-published writers tend (oversimplification) to not do a whole hell of a lot, because that model has historically been, “Focus on the release, then let the momentum carry sales.” That just doesn’t work anymore unless you’re a household name.

Amazon adds, what, over 4K books per DAY to it’s catalog? And those books don’t go “out of print” to make room for others. The book selling game is not what it used to be, because there is a glut of books (good, bad, and otherwise) in the system – and it gets worse by the day.


When someone starts a conversation with “how do you know” that usually sounds like it’s about to lead to an argument. At least to me. And I’m not looking for an argument: period.

Question, before I answer your other thoughts, are you a represented author?


I’ve had modest success. A 10-week run on Amazon UK Best-seller’s list, that I thought would signal a long-term run of sales.

It did not and I got involved with RL and wasn’t able to follow up properly with other books.

However, I’ve paid an editor for each of my published books and I’ve paid a cover artist for my novels, to ensure quality products.

I switched to KU for about 3 years and continued to publish short fiction under another pen name. This has been a good idea, and while I’m not making much, I’ve got a body of work even if it is short fiction.

It appears that having a body of work (30 titles) is helpful - but at some point you have to write well enough to Break Out. No one can predict when and how that will happen.

There are pros and cons to going DIY - however going Trade Publishing has pros and cons as well. A big Con is losing the copyrights to your work for your lifetime plus 70 years. It’s important to understand Copyright law. So there’s that. Read contracts, if you are ever offered one, with an lawyer who understands IP rights.

It appears to me that if WattPad institutes a pay system, or even a tipping system, a writer could make as much here as they would through KU. So you could be at the right place at the right time.


Good information here and I’m highly intrigued. But now that you’ve mentioned one of the cons that concerns me with traditional publishing, perhaps I have to rethink a few things.


Nope. I’m trad pubbed in nonfiction.


Trad pub?


You don’t lose copyright unless you sign a REALLY horrible contract. You license certain rights – and some (most) publishers rights grab – but you keep the copyright.

The copyright + 70 years thing has nothing to do with your publishing. That’s how long you own your copyright before it goes into the public domain.


Traditionally published.