• Lizbeth Meredith
  • Single White Female Seeks Literary Agent/How Finding an Agent is like Finding a Date
Single White Female Seeks Literary Agent/How Finding an Agent is like Finding a Date
Written by
Lizbeth Meredith
November 2012
Written by
Lizbeth Meredith
November 2012


This week, I sent my revised book proposal to an interested agent. Fingers crossed.


For those of you who haven't yet begun the book-selling process, here’s how it begins:


You need an agent.  Literary agents are the baleen to the publishing industry's whale. The Brita to the publishing industry's drinking water. The pan to the publishing industry's gold, according to agent Nathan Bransford. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/09/what-do-literary-agents-do.html


So you send known literary agents a query letter, trying to pique their interest in your writing, and in you. A typical agent receives 50-500 queries a week, and will take on one to two new authors a year.

Should you be fortunate to hear back from the agent, he/she may request your book proposal, which includes and author bio, chapter summaries, sample chapters, and a comparative market analysis, among other things.

This isn’t an easy process.

It reminds me a lot of the futility of dating. I’ve been a single woman now for more than twenty years.  If dating was a paid union job, I’d have retired by now.  Actually, I think I have.

But I remain optimistic about seeking an agent, much more so than I am about seeking a partner.

Here’s how finding  an agent is different that finding a partner:

When seeking an agent, it’s time to be self-promoting.  Talk about your accomplishments, your goals, your strengths.

When having a first date (as a woman), I’ve noticed men respond better to a woman who asks about them. Their accomplishments, their goals, their strengths. The men seem to love a good listener.

Agents appreciate pre-editing. It’s in an author’s best interests to have their work looked at by a critiquing group or professional editor in advance of submitting it.  Dates like their Special Someone to speak freely. At first. The editing comes in later, after that relationship is cemented, when suddenly the Special Someone’s jokes and opinions are in need of a tweak.

Personal referrals to an agent are preferred. If you know someone who writes in your same genre and who’s happy with their agent, it’s supreme if you can get them to give you a recommendation. Not so with dating. Does your friend have an old flame that’s available? Don’t even think about it. Way creepy.


How selecting a literary agent is like finding date:

A good literary agent will never charge a fee for their services.  Enough said.

The relationship between a literary agent and an author is mutually beneficial.  Their efforts complement one another. If an agent promotes the work of their author well and the work sells, the agent’s commission increases right along with the author’s profit. Lasting relationships I’ve seen or read about also provide a win/win opportunity for both parties. Wife gets a raise, shared household income increases. Husband embarks on an exercise plan, and  his better health gives him more time with his wife.

You should know everything about your agent before signing a contract, much the same way you should know your sweetie frontwards and backwards before getting married. Sites like Predators and Editors and the Thumbs Down Agency List can give more information. Unfortunately, you’re on your own with dating.


One last thing. I’ve learned a lot from rejections I’ve received from literary agents. I’ve learned a lot from my failed relationships, too, so long as there was dialogue about the relationship’s demise. But agents, like lovers, are often distant in their rejections, either not responding to queries, or sending a form letter that states basically, “It isn’t you. It’s me. Someone will want you soon, I’m certain.”

 So let me toast all of my direct rejectors, because I've listened and learned. And then let's toast to us all, and our future successes.


Let's be friends

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