Why agents take on less than 1% of all queries

A very timely post for me, seeing that I am currently swimming in a mire of ‘good writing, well drawn characters, not for me’ type responses… Onwards and upwards, or so they say!

Carly Watters, Literary Agent

You’ve heard ‘agents are extremely selective’ and all the other catch-phrases we use to express why we cannot take on you as an author. We mean what we say. But, even if your work is good, great even, we have to pass and here’s why:
  • The industry is competitive so new authors have be able to break out of the pack.
  • The industry is saturated in many markets like YA and women’s fiction so new authors have to be very unique with fresh concepts and fabulous writing that can hook readers.
  • We have a client working on something similar so we can’t take on a new work in that space as it’s not fair to our first priorities: our clients.
  • We like it very much, but we don’t love it. This is a very fine line, admittedly. It’s hard for writers to hear that an agent likes it very much…

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2 thoughts on “Why agents take on less than 1% of all queries

  1. Iankos says:

    The contradiction being, when one browses the shelves in Waterstones (or Amazon), that agents/publishers have signed some atrocious writers with poorly developed characters, hackneyed verbiage and plagiarised themes and plot-lines.

    Put simply, it seems, because they do fit into saturated markets it is easy to publish a poorly written MS because it will sell quickly, rather than to take a punt on truly creative – and potentially niche copy.

    Irritating! Keep plugging away though. There was an article in The Guardian last week about someone in your situation who has just signed a three book deal (about witches. Try making out that’s not a saturated market) after literally just haranguing agents until one picked her up. x

  2. I try not to think that way on the whole, because it is the Law of Sod that if I ever did, by some miracle, end up on the shelves of a Waterstones, people will undoubtedly be saying the same thing about me! But, then again, I did read something recently (which shall go unnamed) that did annoy me. Her writing style is very similar to my raw style – a raw style that I had beaten out of me with nail-studded critique-sticks by people telling me that it was ‘wrong and amateurish to write in that way’. Whilst I do think my style is arbitrarily ‘better’ now, I do sometimes wonder…

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