Agent Green

There’s been an interesting discussion on Crimespace recently about whether the search for an agent or the search for a publisher is the hardest to endure. Since I haven’t gotten an agent yet, I can only respond to that side and the answer is unequivocally: the agent search is harder. I’m in the midst of the submission process for my second novel. While I’m not nearly close to the submission numbers of some other people, I’ve tallied up quiet a total myself and it’s starting to wear on me.

I almost wish I could just send out hundreds of query letters and know they would all be passes. The worst part is getting nibbles here and there that show you glimpses of the promise land. I have no doubt that I will eventually sign with an agent and eventually sign a book deal. But that dream is at best several months or several years away, and in the worst case scenario, it could be decades before it happens. I’m not sure I have the patience to deal with that time frame.

Now part of me really enjoys the query process. It makes me feel like I have a measure of control over my career and that I’m not just waiting around. But the more successful I am at the querying process, the more waiting there is involved. When I was querying for Lunchbox Hero, I sent out letters to 31 agents. More than 60% requested sample chapters, and that process went pretty quick. I sent the letters out and started receiving responses within a few weeks to a month. After I sent out the sample chapters, I would usually hear back on them within another month or so. None of the agents who requested sample chapters requested the whole manuscript, so the process went fairly quickly.

With this new book though, I’ve so far had three requests for the full manuscript. One agent responded within a few months, another agent has had it for almost six months, and a third agent just requested it a week or so ago. In addition to those requests, I’ve sent out about 30 queries, mostly through email and haven’t had any other bites. I’ve been pretty turned off by my success rates with email queries, so I gave up on that and will concentrate any further efforts through snail mail. Last Wednesday I sent off a batch of 10 query letters and received my first two rejection letters in the mail today. I’ve got a list of another 10 agents I will send paper queries to within the next couple of weeks.

I realize it sounds like I’m complaining about my tiara being too tight or my wallet being too full, but I guess I’m just trying to work this all out in my head and understand the process. The key, I think I’ve finally figured out, is to keep myself busy with other things. Not only am I constantly researching and updating my list of potential agents, I’m also working on the next book in the series (Sorry Harry) and rewriting the last couple of chapters of the current book on the advise of a great reader.

But until I get an agent, it all can seem at times like I’m wasting my efforts. When it all comes down to it, I guess I’m desperately seeking the validation that comes with a reputable agent wanting to sign me.