Monday, November 26, 2012

How Many Agents Should You Query? 50? 150?

Agent Roulette

If you want a traditional publishing deal your odds are either 1 in 2,000 or 1 in 200, depending on whom you believe.*

But an article in the January issue of Writer's Digest called "Lessons from First-Time Novelists" offered some encouragement:
- Carter Wilson queried more than 60 agents before finding one. Then his first four books were rejected by publishers. Novel number five was published. He's had the same agent the entire time.
- Keira Peikoff received 30 to 40 rejections before finding an agent who submitted the book to about 10 publishers before getting a deal.
(As of press time, the Writer's Digest article was not available online.)

Personal Anecdotes

- In a recent writing class, the instructor told us about a friend who was rejected by about 70 agents before he found one.
- A friend of mine said he is going to contact 150 agents before moving on to Plan B.

My Plan B (If I Can't Find an Agent)

1) Contact Small and International Publishers Directly

- A list of small publishers by genre from Myperfectpitch
- A list of 250 small presses looking for manuscripts, according to Poets & Writers.

2) Contact Editors Directly


3) Enter Writing Contests

My friend Lee Doyle had her novel rejected by about 50 agents. Then she entered a writing contest that included publication as one of the prizes. Her novel The Love We All Wait For won “Best Novel” at the 2006 East of Eden Writers Conference. She says she's sold about 2,000 copies. She is finishing another novel that she plans to circulate to agents.

4) Self-Publish

I'll package excerpts of the novel into themed self-published e-books on humorous erotica, travel humor, and a bitter single's guide to dating. (After all this, I'm not sure I'll have the money or fortitude to self-publish an entire novel.)

*Some say the odds of getting a traditional publishing deal are better than you'd think. Others say that many of us are deluded and incompetent but don't know it.

My Personal Experience with Agents

I haven't finished my novel yet, but that didn't stop me from blowing about $2,000 on conferences and other shindigs where you can pitch your book to agents. (At one point two years ago, I had three agents -- out of about 20 I met at conferences -- who said they were interested in seeing my completed manuscript. Since then: One agent has left the business, another no longer handles fiction, and the third was still in business, as of press time. Yes, my manuscript is still not finished. But it will be done in March, I swear!)

- Query Letter Confusion: When One Agent Says A and Another 
Says B 

- Old Versions of Query Letters (Background for "Query Letter Confusion" article)


Had Enough with Agents for One Day?

- Vicodin, Klonopin, or Heineken: What Do Unemployed Writer's Have for Breakfast?

- Personality Test: Are You Marriage Material? (Yeah, I flunked this one with flying colors.)

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**Skull art by artist: Irwin J. Weill, Weird_Tales_volume_36_number_01.djvu: Weird Tales, Inc.derivative work: AdamBMorgan (Weird_Tales_volume_36_number_01.djvu) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons