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Literary Agents Get Rejected, Too

Gasp. Oh, the humanity.

But it's true. When I was signed on to my literary agency as an author last August, I thought contracts would come rolling in.

They didn't.

Yes, months later, a publisher at last said yes to my YA novel Den. And I can't tell you how excited I am about that.

But we're still shopping around three books, nine plays, and one screenplay (just written two days ago). Some we haven't heard back anything yet (partially because I literally wrote a book, several plays, and a screenplay just this summer).

And some, gasp, have gotten rejections!

When I joined the C.Y.L.E. team as an agent, I finally understood why.

I shopped around the books of about several clients in a two-month span. Granted, most editors are swamped during conference season, so they have a large pile of agented submissions to return to in mid-August.

But here's what I found.

Submissions I sent to editors we know personally and have developed good relationships with: Roughly 200

Rejections: 50

Yep. You heard it right. Agents get rejected. A lot.

I should note that all of those editors I contacted, I did extensive research on previous deals and book lists and thought they made a good fit. Often times I would present them to Cyle, and he thought the same.

I should also note that some of these author are major authors. Some have sold almost 100 books already. Some are bestsellers in their categories.

Does this make me a terrible agent? No. Several of those submissions are under contract review or are signed at a house.

But it does mean two things:

1. The publishing industry is saturated with submissions (even agented submissions): Editors receive hundreds from trusted professionals alone. And they can only say yes to a handful. That means agents get a lot of nos.

2. A rejection isn't everything: Sometimes gatekeepers can't get past other gatekeepers. Sometimes it will take 99 nos before we get to that one yes that makes all the difference.

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