Innovating Through Artistry

What it’s like to seek a literary agent

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Writing on May 28, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Well it feels like eternity for me– this process of trying to secure an agent; and its not even close to being complete. I have been blessed with far more interest then I ever though possible– considering that agents accept roughly 3% of what they receive. I now have a total of 6 agents and 3 publishers interested in my material… and truthfully I have at least 25 more agents I could send material to.

Its a very small world; the world of literary agents and publishers. I was able to identify maybe 50 quality agents and about 40 quality publishers. Some of the biggest publishers, however, only work through agents to buy projects like Starving Artist Not!; elminating them as possible sources until I have an agent.

The process started with the query letter I sent to them; which explained what Starving Artist Not! was about, why I am the perfect person to write it and why people will read it. Agents/Publishers skim through what they get; looking for new fresh ideas that no one has written about before. Its a very subjective process because what they choose to pursue usually is something of personal interest to them and, most importantly, they feel they have the contacts that will allow them to represent the project and get it sold.

After the query letter, I received quite quickly a request to send out my book proposal; which in greater detail explains the project, who you are, how you will market the project and at least 3 sample chapters with outlines of rest of the chapters in the book.

Agents/Publishers are so overwhelmed with submissions that they don’t want their time wasted because they reject so much of what they see; so this is often the first step.

Now, some 4-6 weeks after completing that, I have successfully made it to the stage where I am now being asked to provide the entire manuscript to read. My deadline to send out my manuscript for all to read is quickly approaching; Monday the 4th of June.

I have come to realize that the literary process is very similar to music auditions– it too is very much a “behind the screen” thing. You send out some of your work, and if they are interested, THEY WILL CONTACT YOU. When or if you receive acceptance to go to the audition, or in my case send them more to read, again you wait for their response.

But this has been an especially strange experience for me, because at least in an audition they say” Thank you- # 178, next please” With books, it can take them months to offer a reply or any feedback at all– and some tell you that right up front!

I use to think the music auditioning process was brutal, but my opinion about that, now that I have written a book, is changing.

This process is harder! NO FEEDBACK AT ALL. At least in an audition if its going well they ask you to play the excerpt again or give you instructions on how they would like to hear it again. It sure is a lot easier to refine or improve your product if you are given some feedback to work from.

While naively I was thinking that this process might be more communicative- after all we are talking about the written word- I am making my way through the process, I think quite well, despite how archaic a process it is.

But I sure will be happy when this stage is over. I have been working hard on this last round of editing my book and can’t wait to send it off into what hopefully is not a black hole but instead into the hands of the right agent to represent Starving Artist Not! who will quickly reply….


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