The search for an agent

The search for an agent

My novel is completed and ready to go out into the world. I did my best to prepare it for this journey and I invested in the service of a freelance editor to help me polishing the novel. Excited and motivated, I started sending queries to look for an agent. I read several articles in internet or books on how to write a query letter and how to prepare the synopsis, and off I went.

I had a whole list of agents in the English-speaking world taken from the very useful book Writers’ and Artists’, which I can highly recommend. The feeling of overwhelm can easily come when you have a huge task, thus I decided to send 5 queries per week. Each agent wants something different, each submission has its own requirements and it took me between 3 to 4 hours to send 5 queries.

The task involved checking the website, looking for the right agent in a given agency, personalize the query letter and add the extra touch to signal that I have read the agent’s bio, rework the synopsis to fit the requirements. Some agencies use a form, others want to have the synopsis and/or the writing sample in the e-mail.

More than once, I spent half an hour reading the agents’ bios to land on the submission page and then see a “we do not accept unsolicited submissions” or “we are closed to submissions”.

Lessons learned

The material I read was useful but quite general. Thus, I had to learn by doing what can make a search smoother and more efficient. In this case efficiency is not aimed at working faster, but rather at reducing frustration, which in the end makes it more likely to keep sending queries and find an agent.

  1. Prepare different synopsis: one sentence, three sentences, one paragraph, one page, two pages (which is seldom used though).

2. The longer synopsis should always be written with line spacing 2.

3. Prepare different samples: 10 pages, 10.000 words, 50.000 words, first chapter, chapters 1 to 3. Use word format and use line spacing 2. Insert your name and the title of the novel in the header or footer. Add page number and name the file with title, your name and sample type, for example Returning East_Lauca_10_pages.

4. Before checking all the agents’ bios, briefly verify in the submission page whether the agency accepts submission.

5. Highlight in bold the parts of the query which you often need change according to the agent’s requirement or location. This allows you to avoid mistakes when customizing the query letter. For example: “I am sending here attached the synopsis and the first 3 chapters.

6. Be clear about the genre of your book and mention it in your query. You can take a look at the categories in an online bookstore to see what the most common are. Also, think about 3 novels, which are in some way similar to yours. Some agents may ask this and it is good to prepare beforehand.

7.State your theme: what is your book about? Relationships? Revenge? Coming of age?


This is the best part of the search: allow yourself to dream! With each query, imagine how it will be to work with that agent, to have fun you can imagine the accent he/she will speak with, the kind of working relationship you may have, things in common you may have. What is important is that you create a positive energy around this task and that you open up mentally to the possibility, no matter how long it takes.

Rejections are part of the process

You will receive one, two, several, many rejections. It is part of the process. It is like looking for a job, right? You keep sending CVs and when you finally find one and stop sending CVs, you will have a 99% rejection quote. It is that 1% which counts. Don’t take rejections personally, they are not about you, but rather about what the agents wants or does not want. And yes, it sucks when you receive the umpteenth rejection, and you may tell yourself that nobody wants your novel but this is not true. You did not offer it to the whole world, but only to maybe 50 agents. It is a tiny, tiny percentage comparing to the world population. Your readers are out there, believe it.

If you keep receiving rejections, instead of going into the victim mode, you have two options.

First option: revision

Revise your query letter and your synopsis. It might be that they are a little off and thus you are not getting a positive answer. You can find professionals who can help you with that. Don’t wait too long! With hindsight, if I had to start all over again, I would revise my query and synopsis after receiving 20 rejections.

Second option: self-publishing

The second option is to self-publish your novel. The truth is that publishing is a business and that agents are humans with their own taste and with a job to do, namely sell books to a publishing house, which wants to make a profit out of the books. Profit comes when the book appeals to a large market or a niche one with specific requirements. It might well be that your novel does not fall into a category, which is considered profitable for the publishing house or for an agent. This still does not mean that there are no readers for your novel. It simply means that it is not sufficiently commercial for the present market.

In this case, self-publishing is the best option to bring your work into the world. It does require more time and maybe some more investment, but it is worth the try, rather than leave your novel in your drawer. There are plenty of information out there about self-publishing, so I am not adding anything here, especially as I have not gone through this process myself, so far.

Just make sure to do your research properly and avoid the vanity press, which take your money without delivering the promised services.

And…keep dreaming! Your novel can see the light, find the best option for you and go ahead!

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