So, you’re looking for an agent. You know that an agent helps you to get your book in the hands of editors, but what does that process look like?
Different agents handle submissions differently, but this is my process.
After I sign a client, we usually do at least one round of revisions on the book. While my author is revising, I’m looking through my list of editorial contacts and creating a sub list. I’ll also be looking at Publisher’s Marketplace to see if any new deals have similar themes to my client’s book. If I’m not already in touch with those editors, I’ll make the connection so that I can sub to them in the future.
I try to add about thirty editors to a sub list before we go out on submission with a project. I’m not sending the book to every single one of these editors in the first round! I usually break them up into tiers of ten editors. Some agents send to fewer editors, some send to more. For me, ten is a good, even number that makes me happy. I also think ten is a strong number for feedback, which I talk about later.
Once revisions are done and we’re both satisfied with the book, I’ll write a pitch letter. I usually share the pitch with my client as well as another agent at my agency to get feedback before I start sending it to editors. I want to make sure it’s strong, and that I’m representing the author and their book well!
The pitch letter then goes out to the first tier editors. Sometimes, I’ll get a response almost immediately from an editor either passing or requesting to see the manuscript. To the passes, I thank them and usually ask for an updated MSWL if I haven’t spoken with them in a while. To the requests, I send along the manuscript with a quick thank you.
On pitches, I follow up with editors who haven’t responded every two weeks. If the editor requested the manuscript, I’ll follow up every six weeks.
Now, the hope is always that one of these first ten editors will take the book to acquisitions, get permission to buy the book, and the process of selling the book will begin. That doesn’t always happen. As editors pass, they often give feedback as to why they decided to pass. If the feedback is actionable, I’ll talk with my author about doing another revision. As mentioned, my ten editor tiers are set up in the hopes that if the book doesn’t sell to one of them, we’ll get some actionable feedback before we move on to the next tier. If the passes are all “this just isn’t right for me,” then we’ll keep submitting to editors until we find the perfect home.
What if the book has gone out to a ton of editors and they’re all passes? Well, as soon as we go on sub, I encourage my authors to start working on their next book. If the book I signed them on isn’t selling, we’ll go on sub with another and keep our fingers crossed that it sells. I don’t sign books I don’t believe in, and I of course want to sell the book I signed my authors on, but sometimes it takes time and other books to get there.
As I said, agents have their own processes. I’m sure I’ll continue to tweak it as I learn and sell my clients’ works, but for now, it’s a process that works best for me!
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