literary agent: still waiting to hear, plus some points to consider regarding submission and rejections

She wanted the manuscript for a couple of weeks. Does a couple of weeks mean two precise weeks, or is it a loose term? I have no idea of the etiquette involved in this situation. Do I wait till she contacts me, or do I let a few more days go by and email her? Although she was so positive about my book, I have to remind myself that she may not take it on. Let’s be honest, in an industry where publishable work is turned down and  (so I read) authors are dropped by publishers if they aren’t sufficiently commercially successful, my book may never be published at all.

Writers  have to brace themselves for rejection, have to try to remain positive when a project fails. I know that sounds pessimistic but it’s the hard truth. If it does fail, you have to ask yourself some questions:

  • is the manuscript good enough
  • has it been polished and edited to within an inch of its life
  • is it hard to fit into any genre (publishers don’t like books that encompass more than one or two genres)
  • is your pitch letter as good as you can get it
  • ditto your synopsis
  • did you send it to the right agencies (you need to do some research and try to target agents who publish books in the same category as yours)
  • is your presentation perfect, i.e. double spaced, printed out on pristine A4 paper if you’re sending hard copy, checked for spelling and typos

You need to try quite a few agencies, but if your book keeps coming back to you, maybe it’s time for a revision or rewrite or to start another book. A novel I sent out four years ago kept getting very positive rejections from both publishers and agents, some said they would have taken it but were full up, some said I wrote well but it wasn’t for them, one lovely lady agent was complimentary but said she didn’t know how she would market the book. Looking at it now, I can see a certain awkwardness in those vital first three chapters. I struggled with them at the time, writing and rewriting to get them up to the standard of the rest of the manuscript. One day I may visit the story again and amend it.

Meanwhile, keep the faith, keep writing and try to learn from any positive comments or constructive criticism thrown your way. Publishers and agents don’t bother to comment (as far as I can tell) if they don’t think your writing shows promise – so treasure those emails or standard slips that have an extra, personalised message attached.

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3 responses to “literary agent: still waiting to hear, plus some points to consider regarding submission and rejections

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention literary agent: still waiting to hear, plus some points to consider regarding submission and rejections | cats dogs & literary agents: life love & having a novel published -- Topsy.com

  2. Dear Flick,
    I understand your concern about behaving in an appropriate manner: you are anxious to hear about your prospects with a literary agent. I would not hold an agent to exactly a fortnight, but would contact back before a month is gone.
    Rather than framing your possible relationship as whether your manuscript is good enough, I would focus on the fit between your agent and you–not on one issue, but on your style as compared to your agent’s style. How important is it that your agent reply to you on the schedule he or she indicates? How important is it that your agent send you updates unsolicited?
    Your potential agent is doing the same with you (and other potential clients). Do you and your style fit with the agent’s? Do you seem to be capable of generating future sell-able titles?
    The central question is whether the agent thinks he or she can market your proposal in an effective manner. This includes garnering a serious offer in a reasonable amount of time. Yet, I know several agents who select works they believe in and want to place.
    has it been polished and edited to within an inch of its life
    Having a clear genre is important for the entire publishing process from bookshelf placement back to which publisher’s editor back to which literary agent. Yes, sometimes what seems creative to authors really seems merely sloppy or undisciplined to agents and editors. Of course, genres are types; one can write an engaging romantic suspense novel. When it comes to pitch time, you need to decide whether to pitch it as suspense or romance.
    Several of your points are right on target: doing serious editing (and re-editing) on your manuscript; researching literary agencies; making the presentation perfect.
    Keep at it.
    Tim

  3. Hi Tim,
    Thank you for you your long, detailed and helpful reply. I’m sure it will also be of help to other writers reading this blog and sheds some light on the mystery of what happens when an agent is very enthusiastic about your manuscript and asks to read it exclusively.

    Thank you very much for taking the trouble to be supportive and infomative.

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