5 Real Reasons Agents Are So Darn Picky

Interesting and informative!

Carly Watters, Literary Agent Blog

I think some of you swear when you say that line to yourself, but I’m keeping it PG on the blog. Really, why are we so #&$%(&-ing picky?

It’s not only the volume, but that has something to do with it.

We’re picky because we have to be. We wouldn’t be able to stay in business unless we were choosy about everything we signed up. So here’s the truth if you’re still wondering what happens at agents’ desks…

5 Reasons Agents Are Picky

1. Because editors are.

All we hear from editors is how much they have to read, how passionate they have to be in their editorial and acquisitions meetings, how much marketing and sales has a say in the books, and how they have to have a clear vision for projects they take on. So guess what, agents have adopted all those criteria too. It’s true, in this internet…

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2 thoughts on “5 Real Reasons Agents Are So Darn Picky

  1. Hey Naomi,

    Again thanks so much for the kind review. This is my first book published ( have written 9) and messed with New York for years. My stuff was always too sad, too long, too southern, etc. I have been accepted to bookbub and will be on there mid next month. In the meantime, any advice? You seem to get what I do so I just thought I would reach out and ask. Btw have you ever heard of bill morrissey? One of my favorite songwriters ever. Your mention of dialogue on a couch made me think of him. If you get a chance listen to Birches some time. He was a genius; been compared to Raymond Carver. Sadly he passes away 4 years ago last week. Anyway, thanks again for your great review! Hope all is well in your world. 😊

    Trey Holt, M.Div., LPC-MHSP 615-364-2293



  2. I’ve been published by the Indie press, which is nice. I’ve also approached I’ve-lost-count how many agencies, large and small, but never been ‘picked up’. There has to be a reason, and the original article does explain this pretty well, with all five being valid, particularly the one that says “Because it’s a business”. We live in a commercial world and therefore shouldn’t expect agents to live otherwise.

    That said, I think that it’s the case now as it has been for decades – to get representation by an agent (or, indeed, directly by a publisher) you need one or more of four things:

    1. You must already have a name that is in the public eye – it doesn’t matter what, just so long as when somebody sees your name on a cover there’s an immediate recognition.

    2. You must already know somebody with influence in the industry. The adage it’s not what you know, it’s who you know (although that should probably be ‘whom’) is absolutely apt.

    3. You must be lucky enough to get picked up by an agent who is just setting out on the career.

    4. You must be far-sighted enough to forecast ‘the next big thing’ and write a book about it (whatever ‘it’ is) which an equally far-sighted agent spots ahead of the game. For example, in the past 20 to 30-odd years, the ‘big thing’ has been vampires, followed quickly on by zombies and the generally undead..

    As has been said many times in many places, it’s not a question of talent or of an ability to write. You could be Dickens or Bronte reborn but if you don’t meet at least one of the four above then DIY publication is pretty much the only path available – which is not so bad, because you don’t have to share whatever your talent manages to accrue from sales, or the plaudits that may come your way if you manage to succeed (as my good friend Tim Taylor is now finding out, and well done to him for that!)



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