I may be cutting my own throat, burning a bridge (if there were one) … or it might just be that I am a loser.
Think what you will think, most people do anyway … but here’s my story on why I think chasing literary agents is a waste of time.
Putting Together a Book Proposal
I spent nearly 2 months putting together a book proposal for a non-fiction book. I created multiple iterations and had a highly qualified friend take a look and give feedback.
Question – How do I know she is highly-qualified?
Answer – Check out these qualifications:
- She has 3 times successfully landed a literary agent. Twice for fiction and once for nonfiction.
- She has multiple times had articles published in ‘prestigious’ magazines and online sites.
- She used to do book reviews for very highly respected newspaper on the left coast.
- She knows her stuff and held nothing back in telling me what I should and should not do with my book proposal.
I also got online, read a BUNCH of websites owned by literary agents and publishing houses to learn from them as well what was needed, wanted in a proposal.
I finally had a proposal I could confidently submit.
Literary Agents Have More Hoops to Jump Through
A proposal, however, is not all that a literary agent wants.
Literary agents say they want:
- a personalized email submission / query letter that shows I care, took the time to reach out to them because they are a match. Yeah, right.
- a social media presence that is worth tooting about. Yeah, right again.
So, I took this advice to heart. I spent on average an hour and a half per email query.
3 Steps to Choosing a Literary Agent to Contact
- I went to the agent’s site or the agency site where the agent was attached.
- I read bio after bio and clicked through to read up on books they had represented.
- I picked out that one agent who resonated, who said they were interested in the book-type I was writing.
Example – My book is about raising bi-cultural kids. I found a bi-cultural agent in Kansas or some such place from the 2 cultures I am writing about! I could tell from her name, and wrote personally to her … because of her name, because she said she was interested in the kind of book I was writing. Silence.
I tailored EVERY single email I sent out to each agent or agency, mentioning books they had represented and their interests and explaining how my book idea was a match. EVERY ONE!
Solid Research in my Marketing Statistics
Yes, yes … I did my market research. My book proposal was solid. No making up of numbers. Solid.
But and this might be a big BUTT, or but for most would-be authors … gotta have a social media presence. What about that?
Go Ahead – Check Out My Social Media Platform
- I have two very relevant Twitter accounts with more than 90,000 combined targeted followers. That’s a big number, right?
- I have a local F2F network of followers that reaches over 30,000 people. Real people. Who follow me. That’s a big number, right?
- I have an online niche forum of people who follow me. My name is in the URL that they follow … 2,200 posts, 23,000 threads, the majority created by my 3,000+ followers!! Those are big numbers. Right?
- More than 140,000 visitors have come to my personal site more than 200,000 times! Organically! Those are big numbers, too, right?
- I included screenshots in my book proposal as proof. Did I say my proposal was solid?
- I had opening chapters, outline for the project. And everything else that my coach and the many websites said I needed. Did I say my proposal was solid?
I spent a minimum of 100 hrs researching agents and agencies, writing personalized emails and sending them out and waiting 6 weeks to 3 months (are you serious?) to get an answer … one way or the other … or more accurately … to NOT get an answer.
I got one ask for more information. I got almost a dozen canned responses. And a full 80% of my queries got no response whatsoever. So, I sent them out again! Yeah, I can hit resend. But only after I further personalized the email and mentioned, that they must be busy and what not.
More zilch. Nada. Zero. Zip. No answer. Can you really get more of nothing? More silence I suppose.
Do the math before thinking Literary Agent
100 hrs and one ask for more info. The way I figure, I need to get 30 asks for more information in order to finally get the agent. 30 x 100 hrs = 3,000 hrs. People don’t work that much in one year!
So, how much do I pay myself per hour. $10/hr? $100/hr? If I paid myself minimum wage I’d be spending $30K just to get an agent!?!? And I still don’t have a publishing deal or an advance. That would take even more time and revisions … and with NO guarantee. And if I got an advance I’d still have to write the book AND share with the agent.
In which universe does this make sense?
Agents are self-proclaimed gatekeepers AND lousy ones at that.
Furthermore … I think they are just dishonest at worse … or completely overwhelmed with so much trash that it’s now impossible to get noticed unless there is an introduction.
Agents say – we need this, this and this. And I provided that, that and that. Did I say my proposal was solid?
And I couldn’t even get them to read the email, much less respond.