Someone asked me why I didn’t just self-publish to get me book ‘out there’ as I did last time. Why persist in editing, refining, getting feedback from beta readers, and sending off query letters to chosen literary agents? Here is my answer:
Self Publishing is from my head, but traditional publishing is from my heart
I so believe in my book, in its plot, characters, potential and value, that I want to find an agent who thinks likewise, and who will work with me to make it the very best of my work. Therefore, I will persist for however long it takes, to get it accepted by a traditional publisher. The task may be difficult, but so has been the writing; writing from the sum of my experiences since my youth and wisdom and observations from my mature life. I’m not suggesting that my new novel will be a best-selling, but it is selling my best for others to enjoy and ponder on the world we share in such a way to want to make it a better place for all. At one point I wanted to throw my manuscript away, but now I want to embrace it. Therefore, I will persist.
The best book agents can get as many as 1,500 queries per month, and they sometimes only offer to represent approximately 6 new clients per year. Of those 6 new clients, 3 will most likely have been published elsewhere already. So, in a calendar year, a top agent may receive as many as 18,000 queries and represent as few as 3 unpublished authors from that pile! Others are more optimistic, saying that an unpublished author has a 1 in 500 chance of finding representation.” [source: here] . If you do the Mathematics, that is as likely as if you are standing in a crowd of 6,000 people at a concert and you get picked from that group to come on stage. In other words, 99.97% of submissions are rejected. Ouch!
Here’s another take on the subject. “According to Heather Hummel, founder of PathBinder Publishing, only 4% of the query letters sent to agents get a positive response. Of the approximately ten million proposals sent to agents and editors, only 65,000 become books. That’s 0.0065% of all book proposals being accepted. Not even 1/10th of 1%. Yikes!
Conclusion 1. It’s incredibly difficult to gain an agent’s interest, and 2. It’s incredibly difficult to get published in the traditional way.
Your Query lands on the Literary Agent’s desk and you hope for representation? No, that’s wrong. Your Query lands somewhere in a pile of Queries like this…
So, what are your chances of having your <great, edited, beta-checked, fabulous) novel accepted? From my research, I would guess about one chance in a pile of Queries this tall. Some calculate that the chance of making it through the Slush Pile is 1 in 100; then 1 in another 100 to have it accepted by a publisher. Others put the chance at 1 in 6000. It all depends upon which literary gatekeeper you refer to.
I had a non-fiction book accepted my Macmillan Publishers and it did very well (with four reprints). Then I self-published my first thriller and it received great reviews, yet these did not translate into spectacular sales. I wonder if the title—3 WISE MEN—put off the non-religious readers, even though it is hardly religious at all?
My latest novel awaits representation from a literary agent and I believe in the book enough to pursue this route until I find the right one. Plus, I want a wide audience to enjoy a contemporary novel that addresses global imbalances in wealth in a post-COVID world, along with Cold War drama and high-tech espionage. My new novel aims to be current and intriguing, with enough tension to keep you awake, and enough humour to enjoy the literary journey. In the next few posts, I will use extracts from the book to wet your appetites. And, if you are keen, I am looking for a few more Beta Readers to give me feedback.
Searching for a Literary Agent is a bit like looking for your home in a snow storm. Why ‘home’? Because I am looking for an agent who fits me—who enjoys my writing and connects with me and wants to promote my work; the kind of agent who would feel comfortable at my place, and enjoy my company and conversation. For the textbook I wrote, the agent (and publisher) was professional, yet warm, and had a sense of purpose with humour. I liked that and it helped me stay on track and meet deadlines. Do I have an agent for my new book? Not yet, but I am hopeful for one soon. You, dear follower, will be the first to know! Meanwhile, I keep looking, which involves researching potential agents—looking up their profiles and youtube videos and twitter accounts, etc. to find the right fit. More on agent searching soon!