Literary Agents Get Rejected, Too

August 11, 2018

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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