Agents and Queries, Part 1 – The Agent is not the Enemy

March 26, 2009 at 7:46 PM | Posted in Agents, Publishing, Queries, Uncategorized, YA | 2 Comments

Disclaimer: I am not a literary agent or a published author  –  but I did spend an ungodly amount of time researching the industry before querying my first novel. This is how I justify posting this article that makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about. I hope it’s useful and not just totally presumptuous. Enjoy.


Repeat after me: the literary agent is not out to get you. She is not a demon in human form. And she is most definitely NOT a little god on Mount Olympus who shoots lightning bolts at your query letter and laughs while it burns.

Well, then what is a literary agent, you ask?

Good question.

A literary agent works with authors to help them publish their book. They are the people who go to bat for us writers, shove our manuscripts in the faces of big-name editors and publishers, and say “You should buy this. Really.” And when the editors and publishers say, “Sorry, this isn’t for us,” – then the agent goes to the next editor and/or publisher and starts the process all over again.

It is a really good idea to have an agent, for this reason: It’s their job to be persistent and stubborn as heck.

Agents are book lovers who enjoy stories so much that they sift through proverbial mountains of manuscripts searching for the good stuff. This is the equivalent of walking into a bookstore in which every novel in the world has been lumped into a pile of title-less, cover-less paper; striding up to the guy at the cashier’s counter; and saying , “Hello. I’m looking for a first edition copy of the British version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Where is it?”

It is a hard job. It is often frustrating. Occasionally, when an agent finds a book that they love but cannot sell, it is heartbreaking.

But they keep doing it.

Why on earth would anyone in their right mind choose to go into this maddening profession?

Let me tell you a secret: It’s because they want to see us succeed.

Yes, you heard me – agents WANT to find new talent. They want to hear about debut authors getting book deals. They love to represent a brand spanking new book that they love.

They do not hate you for sending your shy, nervous little query letter. On some days, when they have 200 of those nervous little queries in their inbox – sure. It gets tough to stay enthusiastic. Don’t get offended if you don’t have twenty different agencies knocking on your door and doing a happy dance because they loved the way you worded that first sentence. It’s a tough profession, and you’re not always going to get responses that are full of rainbows and sunshine.

Suck it up. Because the agent is not your enemy. They genuinely want to represent good books, and they are more than willing to read yours if it falls under the category of “good.”

So don’t be afraid of those scary gods on the literary mountain. They are just regular people doing their job. And if you’ve written a great novel that you want to publish, then it is your job to put your big kid boots on, swallow your fear, and ship your baby off to Olympus.




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  1. A.A.A. Agents Are Awesome.

    They sacrifice so much for their writers! Like the ability to actually go sit somewhere quiet and meant for food-eating and eat their lunch as opposed to running around the office while eating or eating with a big publishing person. haha.

  2. That was really informative, Red. You have loads of really good points.

    Agents are incredible, peoples. Lets hear it for them.

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