You’ve heard ‘agents are extremely selective’ and all the other catch-phrases we use to express why we cannot take on you as an author. We mean what we say. But, even if your work is good, great even, we have to pass and here’s why:
- The industry is competitive so new authors have be able to break out of the pack.
- The industry is saturated in many markets like YA and women’s fiction so new authors have to be very unique with fresh concepts and fabulous writing that can hook readers.
- We have a client working on something similar so we can’t take on a new work in that space as it’s not fair to our first priorities: our clients.
- We like it very much, but we don’t love it. This is a very fine line, admittedly. It’s hard for writers to hear that an agent likes it very much but cannot offer representation. But in the long run you’ll want an agent that is head over heels for it.
- Your submission requires more work than time we can give. Agents have limited time available to work on major editorial tasks. The time we do have for that goes to our clients first.
- We aren’t the best agent for it. Some agents are more specialized in nonfiction, YA, or commercial fiction–for three examples–and those agents can be better for you. Don’t get tied to the idea of working with an agent you follow on Twitter or an agent that you think might be the best fit. Find the best representation for your work and whose agency has a track record that can support your books.
- We get referrals that usually take precedence over work coming in unsolicited. Referrals come in from clients or people we know in the industry so these are part of our job. I always appreciate referrals and put those ahead of unsolicited work because they are part of the relationships we build as agents in our industry and with our clients.
- We have a full client list so taking something new on has to ‘wow’ us to make room. When we are busy with client work we’re familiar with and reading queries that are just okay, and we come across a query and submission that gets our heart rate up, raises our eyebrows, and we get thinking about who to submit it to–that’s a ‘wow’ factor. Always try to bring the ‘wow’ factor. If you don’t think your query and sample material are ready to wow us, then don’t submit yet.
- The feedback we’re getting from editors in your genre is not supportive of growing authors in that space. We might have taken on an author in your genre and it didn’t get good feedback from editors because of competitive and saturated markets, which always makes us hesitant of getting back in the ring. We want success for the authors we represent.
Conclusion: be ready to stand out from the pack with your outlook and your work; do your research; always get set to ‘wow’ agents; and finally, good is good, but great is great–so agents and editors alike will know.
A pass is never what you want to hear, but it can be more complex than ‘not right for us at this time.’