Finding an agent/Publishing book

To anyone who’s had an agent to publish their story, I have some questions (thank you for answering them if you can):

  • How did you find your agent?
  • How hard is it to find an agent on a scale from 1-10, 10 being the hardest, and how long did it take you?
  • What are some things you should avoid to be successful in finding an agent?
  • Does finding an agent always mean you get to publish your book?
  • Any advice before I send my work to an agent?

I think this thread is better suited for the “Industry Insider” club. You might be able to find more answers there.

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I’m traditionally published in nonfiction, but not agented. I can answer with solid industry answers, though.

Querytracker.net is an excellent resource. Filter by genre. Follow their submission requirements to the letter.

  1. Here’s the problem with this sort of scale – or with statistics. They don’t look at the individual. An individual who is querying too soon isn’t going to find an agent for that manuscript, period. Someone who has an uber marketable story and a polished, well-crafted manuscript ready for prime time, just has to hit the right person.

It tends to be a VERY slow process. It can take a couple of YEARS to get an agent – and another couple to get published. Or it can happen in days. Seriously.

Avoid? Avoid querying too soon. Avoid blowing through your query list with a query, synopsis, and/or pages that haven’t been heavily workshopped and polished. Avoid sending frustrated replies when you receive rejections. Avoid hanging your hopes on THIS manuscript. A writing career is many manuscripts over many years, and not all will be published. Avoid thinking your words are gold – be open to learning.

Nope. I think the industry average is placement of about 75% of manuscripts. It can drop as low as 50% on debuts. If you get an agent, you’re getting there, but it still may not be with THIS manuscript.

Workshop the query and synopsis. Answer ALL questions you get asked – and don’t get frustrated if you find out that you’re not as ready as you think you are. If reviewers see holes or have problems, you can be assured that the agents will – and they don’t give feedback on queries and say “Try again.”

Be aware that it’s a competitive field. Of every manuscript that is actively queried – not just written, but actively queried – about 1-in-10K is actually published. But, like I said above, this doesn’t consider the individual. 95% of manuscripts queried really have ZERO chance. The other five percent have a really good chance. The top 1% is pretty much a sure thing, if the writer sticks with it.

Don’t take it personally. Just keep working to get better.

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Seconding RavensofOld you’ll find much better luck getting perspectives in the industry insider forum.

Hi there :wave:

I’ve moved your thread to Industry Insider as it would be best suited for your questions. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thank you,

Emerald - Community Ambassador

I agree with everythng @XimeraGrey said.
Took me six years to get my agent. I had sold short fiction for pro rates which I think helped a bit with making my query stand out. I second the recommendation of Querytracker and will toss in AbsoluteWrite as well. Before you query read Queryshark - all of it, and Query Letter Hell at AbsoluteWrite.

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QueryShark!! I forgot QueryShark. Yes, required reading. All the way from the beginning.

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Omg i met Janet Reid this weekend! Honestly? That woman is awesome. Sharks are scary but very very helpful :shark::heart:

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Did she throw a plush Aragog at you? Just curious. There’s a picture of it on her blog. I SO envy you. I love Janet’s post, she’s witty, she’s competent and she doesn’t suffer fools.

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OMG, OMG, OMG! I’m so jealous!!! How cool. What conference? Did she review your pages at all? Did you pitch to her?

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@lhansenauthor @XimeraGrey Ok finally people who get this is a big deal!! hahaha. She was honestly amazing. Very funny and snarky. CRAZY generous with her time. And yes… she DID look at my query (not pages). She made very few edits (i was shocked) and then… wrote the name of her agent friend to whom she tosses all the “dark stuff” and said " use my name and tell her Janet said to read this" :flushed: I was giddy!!! I sent off the query yesterday. Am already sure I f*cked it up somehow :sweat_smile:

This was all at the NY writer’s digest conference. She actually did 3 panels but I only made the last one ( which was great). Also pitched to 5 agents and 1 editor ( from tor). All requested some amount of material. I have 3 fulls out atm ( had those out before the conference). I think my biggest fear atm is that i secretly stink and this will all come to nothing :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile: anxiety sucks

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Also… why are typos SOOOOOOOO hard to find? I recently printed a draft of my MS to hand edit. I am horrified by how many errors there still are after roughly 5 drafts. I know that editing is my weakness (for typos and spelling) but others HAVE looked at it… sigh. Makes me self conscious about the fulls that are out :upside_down_face:. Nothing crazy bad but still. Sorry for venting…hehe

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Since i have kind of crashed your thread ( apologies). I will also add my two cents to this thread

I do not have an agent yet. I have been working on querying for nearly 2 years now. I have had about 6+ full requests at this point. Not all were real “full requests” in the sense that the agent asked for a full at the start having read no sample pages. ( full means "requested full manuscript. Typically after having read the query, synopsis, and some amount of sample material) I have received FAR more form rejections and no responses. Thats the nature of querying.

How hard is it? Well… it aint easy. Also depends a lot on the project. Mine is a VERY tough fit. I have to find an agent who understands what I am going for in the way my readers seem to. Hasnt happened yet. I remain hopeful. Why? you might ask… because it is still grabbing interest and I have been editing this whole time (after 3 years working on this project i think i finally like my revised first pages. This is perhaps the 6th version of those first pages)

So i guess my advice is this… brace yourself. For harsh critique, for no response, for the LONG waits ( it can take months for some agents to get back to you even if they ultimately request more!). Keep querying. My biggest mistake has been dragging it out. Its hard for me to keep submitting when I have requests. But that is no reason to stop sending. It might take MONTHS to hear back on a full ( up to 6 months is still “reasonable”). You might NEVER hear back.

I would also add to the other awesome suggestions already on this thread? Join twitter. Pitch at online pitch contests. Most of my requests for more material came from an agent i didnt just cold query. They had liked my pitch on twitter or I had met them on twitter/at a conference. I just got my first full request off a cold query a few weeks ago and I was SO happy! ( and then saw she requests 3 months to review a full so… now the waiting starts lol)

GOOOD LUCK! ( also on twitter, follow the #writingcommunity. We all need support through the tough process of writing and pitching. These folks can help!)

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This sounds really positive. You are close. You clearly do not stink. Keep believing…and outline a second book.

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Lol indeed i know i need to start the next thing. Im 3 chapters away from “the end” on my wip. Unfortunately it is connected to the first book but at least i can say i finished a new project. Gonna try to force myself to leave it unedited for now and try to focus on the next book. Getting ready to start a new entirely unrelated project.

I hope i am close. Its funny i so thought i was at one point and… i know why i was wrong. Hehe. :sweat_smile: Certainly am learning a lot though hehe

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Take a deep breath and repeat after me “The project does not stink.” If Janet liked it (and yes, she did, otherwise she would not have done what she did) then you have just taken a quantum leap. Stop sabotaging yourself and treat yourself to something really nice.
You deserve it!

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Workin on that lol. Actually heading away with friends for the weekend. Def plan to chill a bit and avoid my computer screen lol

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Hi! Thanks for your well thought out response! I just wanted to ask, is there a particular reason why agents take so long to respond? Is it because they’re dealing with a lot of requests, or only take a max number of reauests…?

Also, the first time you send your work to an agent how much do you send them (Microsoft Word page wise). Thanks again x

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Good luck to you too!! <3

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The query package usually includes five pages pasted at the end of the email. (Not as an attachment.) But always, always check the individual agent’s guidelines.

Agents get upwards of 100 queries per week. It honestly doesn’t take long to answer queries, though many have a “no response means no” policy, which is rather maddening. It takes a lot longer to respond to partials and fulls, because there’s more work involved. More to read, plus usually there’s feedback.

The reason it takes so long, though, is because people who are querying are NOT paying clients. Queries, partials, and fulls are read on breaks, on the train, during lunch, in the evening, on weekends. And, oh yes, agents actually have lives to live as well, which means sometimes that just don’t have time for those extra things.

Writers get frustrated when it takes months and months and there’s barely any feedback or when they answer quickly but don’t give any feedback. (Queries will almost never include feedback.) But they need to remember that agents owe them exactly the same amount of attention you would owe the freelancer who sent you a business proposal. If you’re interested, you’ll look. If you’re not, you won’t. Either way, you don’t owe him a critique of his proposal or an explanation about why you’re not biting.

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