Literary Agents Past and Present
It was only five years ago that I sought to have my first novel published, but a lot has happened, and charged, since then, making it feel much longer ago. It had taken me five years to write Daddy’s Hobby, and knowing nothing about publishing, I thought that the world was waiting for it.
I sent the first few chapters off to Curtis Brown on paper from Thailand at a cost of £32 and waited anxiously.
And waited… and waited.
They had said that it could take three months to get a reply, and they also, or other agents did, intimidated that eticette dictated that authors only approach one agent at a time. So I continued to wait.
Four months passed, so I got in touch.
Undeterred, I sent my stuff off to another agent, and again, heard nothing.
At that rate, it would take three years just to reach out to a dozen agencies, and that was obviously a ludicrous position to be in. I abided by their rules but they didn’t even have the courtesy to email me yes or no?!
I don’t think so.
Fast forward to nowadays.
The first big change is that very few agencies will accept paper submissions any longer. It is all email these days.
Secondly, only a few years ago, those who would accept unsolicited manuscripts were exceptions to the rule, although not uncommon. Nowadays, nearly all agencies accept unsolicited manuscripts, although some have so-called ‘windows of opportunity’.
Thirdly, nearly all agencies respond to queries now – those who do not are the exception. Not only that, but response times are coming down. Three months used to be the norm, but now it is becoming the maximum with most offering four to six week decisions. One I know even promises to let the author know within seven days, but that is unbelievably fast and not yet matched in my experience.
It seems to this humble writer that fairness is fast approaching and that the boss and underdog mentality of the past has well and truly passed.
And not before time too.
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Podcast: Literary Agents Past and Present