Author seeking Match: Is the search for a literary agent more difficult than finding a soul mate?

With Valentine’s day around the corner, my thoughts are focused on finding that special someone. I’m looking for my perfect match, the right fit, the individual who ‘gets me’, who likes what they see and who wants a committed relationship. I won’t find this person on eHarmony or I highly doubt I’d run into my kindred spirit in the grocery store, or at the gym. Because I’m not looking for a partner in life- I’m looking for a literary agent.

Granted, I am very lucky to have already found a partner in life, someone who encourages me to keep trying after every disheartening rejection letter. He manages to make me laugh even when I’m feeling depressed. And it took me twenty-five years to find him. So how long will it take me to find an agent?

At first the process seemed simple: 1. Create an Excel database with a list of literary agents interested in women’s fiction.  2. Write kick-ass query letter. 3. Send kick-ass query letter to agents and receive enthusiastic requests to read my manuscript. 4. Get an agent!

I started off with a bang. The first big name New York agent I submitted to was interested in my manuscript. She requested a ‘partial’ ( usually the first 3 chapters or the first 50 pages). I was thrilled! Until she wrote me two weeks later to say that she wasn’t ‘in love’ with my writing. Ouch. I had been dumped.

The letter was kind and I appreciated it, but it still stung. Seasoned writing veterans urge newbies to  develop a thick skin, to not take these things personally. But how can you avoid personal offence when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your writing? It’s like showing someone your new baby and being told that it’s ugly. Still, every week I keep trying, sending my query letter out to agents on my list. Sometimes I receive no response. Like an unanswered email on a dating website, my letters go unacknowledged. Being ignored is even more frustrating than receiving a rejection letter from an underpaid intern.

I’m beginning to dread the phrase, “Remember, this is a very subjective business.” In the same vein as  “It’s not you, it’s me,” this literary version of heartbreak sounds just as awful.

My second rejection after a partial request was even nicer than the first. Looking at the agent’s profile picture on her website, I really felt like we could be friends. I wanted to say, “But you don’t know how hard I’ve worked on this! What can I do to be a better match?” Like an unexpected break-up after an awesome third date, I had to sigh and let it go.

But more importantly, I need to believe in myself. As a sensitive cancer, I’m still pretty terrible at stomaching rejection. However, I’ve gotten better at dusting myself off and sitting down at my laptop, ready to try again. I don’t want to be a jaded writer, worried that I’ll never make it.  I’m not a celebrity or socialite with New York connections. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not special, or worthy of telling my story.

So this Valentine’s day, I’m going to be an optimist. Tomorrow morning I’ll put on a red dress and ride BART to work with a secret smile. Like thousands of hopeful singles, I will go forth with confidence, knowing that eventually, I too am going to find The One. 

11 thoughts on “Author seeking Match: Is the search for a literary agent more difficult than finding a soul mate?

  1. Wow, that is exactly how I feel. Rejected. :( We all need to continually find our inspiration to write, and as the song goes, “Don’t stop BELIEVIN’!”
    Did you hear about Story Circle Network. It is a national network of women writers located in Texas.
    Their link is
    I found some of their workshops to be very supportive. Their members’ stories are about women’s authentic experiences.

  2. If only there was some kind of “speed dating for writers” and agents. I definitely would sign up. Forrest Gump was right about life being like a box of chocolates.

      1. Oh noooo, the SF Writer’s conference is already SOLD OUT! Sobbbb!!
        I need to find out how to sign up for next year. Please keep writing and submitting your work, because I would totally read it.

  3. I’m in the same boat, but I’m trying to stay optimistic. Many people say that your first novel isn’t your best and the biggest problem is that agents and publishers need to know you can produce and keep producing as they are almost guaranteed to take a loss or at least make little profit with your first book. It’s a bit ridiculous that most publishers won’t read your work without an agent and most agents don’t want you unless your published. My first novel is still making the rounds and I’m almost finished my second (well the first draft anyway). If your a good writer, and it sounds like you are, keep trying let your name be seen enough that agents and publishers start to recognize it and say “hey she’s good and can produce.” I actually scoured the internet and asked people and there are some publishers you will accept un-agented manuscripts.
    I write romance and here are some I found: (query only) (query and first chapters) (list of romance publishers) (they prefer agented, but will look at non and they accept in many genres) (they publish in many genres, but only want unpublished writers as it’s a new writer’s scheme) (digital printing, but it’s a big, reputable company and at least gets your work out there)
    I hope this helps. Good luck. Keep trying.

    Rose Connelly (unpublished romance writer)

    1. Thanks Rose! It is a challenging process, but I think the benefit to having an agent is that they can negotiate the best possible contract for you. I know there’s no way I would understand the legal jargon involved! Best of luck to you too. There are lots of literary agents out there. It only takes one. Keep trying! I know I will =)

  4. I’m arriving a little late at the party here, but I just received nearly an identical letter. I wonder if it’s a tried-and-true method that deters stalkers and psychopaths? In any case, did your novel ever find a home? Oh, and, beautiful job on the site.

    1. Hi Robert, thanks for stopping by my blog! I’m still searching for a literary agent. I hope that’s not discouraging! But my novel has undergone so many revisions since this post. If you read later postings, you’ll see I cut about 25,000 words. It was hard, but I feel much better with this current draft. I’m entering lots of contests now, and more involved on Twitter, where I found my critique partners. It’s all part of the process, learning and growing as a writer. Good luck to you!

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