How to Find the Right Agent for You, and Stay Positive in the Face of Rejection

As an author, you’ll have poured your heart and soul into your work; in real time, it equates to thousands of hours of focus, research, thought, scribbles, interviews and nuts-and-bolts writing.
As an author, you’ll have poured your heart and soul into your work; in real time, it equates to thousands of hours of focus, research, thought, scribbles, interviews and nuts-and-bolts writing.
 
So when you’re ready to take the next step and share your creation with the world, who do you trust to give it the best shot at success? And how do you continue to believe in yourself when your later works aren’t commissioned?
 

Give yourself the best chance with the right agent

 
Traditionally, a literary agent’s role is to nurture an author’s talent. To ensure you’ve got an agent who will elevate your work, it’s worth checking who else is representing books like yours.
 
It’s important to remember that most agents, like the publishers, are overwhelmed with submissions. They may receive as many as 50-100 per week, and they may only take on a handful of new clients each year. For that reason, understanding the submission process is vital. Send a well-crafted cover letter including information about why you would like that agent to consider your work, as well as a synopsis of the book and the first three chapters.
 
To have a chance of being taken on, your communication at this stage needs to be faultless. Attention to detail is paramount; address your submission to the right person, check, recheck and triple check your grammar and spelling. Even tiny errors can lead to your submission being rejected outright. In short, do what you can to eliminate any barriers to getting your manuscript read.
 

What to expect from the author-agent relationship

 
The author-agent relationship is a long term arrangement, with the agent’s primary role to be the link between you and any publisher. Authors don’t pay to be represented by the agent; payment happens once a deal with a publisher has been agreed and, at that stage, it may only be a modest advance.
 
Once an agent has taken your work on, it’s their job to nurture you as an author in preparation for approaching publishers. Some agents will approach multiple publishers hoping to create an auction situation. Those are the rare instances where sealed bids can lead to big contracts.
 
If your manuscript doesn’t catch the interest of a publisher at first, some agents will dig for feedback and encourage you to make revisions, such as refining the timeline or another element of the work.
 
There comes a time when an agent has done everything they can for an author. A good agent will know the market and know why your work isn’t selling in, and will advise you in what to do next, hopefully in gentle terms.
 

Finding your mojo after rejection

 
There’s no getting around it, rejection can hurt. If you find yourself losing faith in your work, it can be a comfort to know that most authors, even the most successful household names, have experienced it in some form or other.
 
So how do you pick yourself up and move forward? The key is to get your confidence back, and there are plenty of ways to do it:
 
Get active on writers’ forums - share your experience with others who know what you’re going through. Ask advice. Seek reassurance. Be open to suggestions and expand your network with people who are on your side.
 
Ramp up your writing - join a creative writing group, start or rekindle a daily writing habit with no outcome in mind, find the joy in writing for writing’s sake - don’t let rejection crush your creativity.
 
Breathe new life into your work - put your manuscript away for a while and when the time is right, find a way to develop it further. Whether it’s choosing a character and writing a monologue of three pages, or taking your story on a tangent to another country or culture. Open the door to inspiration and see what evolves.
 
Research other publishing routes - the publishing world is changing and self publishing and digital publishing are now viable and respected routes to consider. Self publishing involves some upfront investment but can give you greater control over your book and is a quick way to get your book to market. Digital publishers can make your book a virtual reality quickly, but it’s important to find a reputable company and remember that you won’t have a hard copy of your work to promote.
 
Helen Hollick is a hybrid author who has also self-published with SilverWood Books. Helen has been through the journey of rejection and subsequent success. Helen says, "Have faith in yourself and your characters. What one reader (or agent) dislikes another might love. But do ensure that what you send out is polished to the highest standard. You don't want anyone to meet your characters with typo blemishes and grammatical flaws."

If you're at a point where you’d like to explore self-publishing, please get in touch with us. SilverWood can help you create a professional quality book and will support you every step of the way.

If you’re hoping to submit your manuscript to a literary agent, but would like some professional feedback first, our Literary Agent Submission Package Service might be useful for you.
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