Literary Agents Are Like Anglers

My youngest daughter Meagan loves to fish, but apparently literary agents do to...for a living.
My youngest daughter Meagan loves to fish, but apparently literary agents do too…for a living.

I like to think of literary agents as if they are anglers with a very good fishing rod, with the best bait in the world, but in the end they are still only anglers.  As a child of the country I know very well what angling or fishing is all about.  Angling is about ten percent preparation and ninety percent waiting.  One must be patient if they desire to catch a fish.  Fish are fickle, and they often are not biting.

My agent presented This Broken Earth to a publisher at the end of February, but as my agent told me, she did not have much faith in the book because it is a post-apocalyptic story and there are currently billions of post-apocalyptic stories flooding the market.  It’s a hard sell, or to use my metaphor, we are angling with the wrong bait.

So how do we speed up the process?  We don’t.  We wait, we are patient, we support our agent with good words of encouragement and wait some more.  This angler of mine is sitting near a very big pond with many large fish in it and she doesn’t have to go very far to fish there every day.  Eventually she will catch something.  In the literary agent game, sometimes we don’t get a bite at all, some days we pull back an empty hook, and some days we land a giant fish…or maybe even a small one.  One thing is for sure (and the agent knows this) if she doesn’t catch anything, neither one of us eat.

My agent is not only looking for ways to publish This Broken Earth, she is also linked in with the film and television industry and is looking for projects for me to do with that industry.  She is reading the first two chapters of my current WIP and will respond when she has time to do so.  Until then, I’ll be patient.  Very patient.

Some things not to do:

  1. Don’t send endless e-mails, annoying them with random thoughts.  They are very busy and need to filter their e-mail for you anyway.
  2. Don’t get upset with them if they don’t e-mail you right away.  Be patient and wait for it.  They will get back to you.
  3. Don’t quit writing.  Work diligently on your next project and hope that it’s something that is marketable.  Your agent can help you with that.

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Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

3 thoughts on “Literary Agents Are Like Anglers

  1. Fishing is a good analogy. Or perhaps playing right field in Little League. In any case, alert patience is the key.

    My agent spelled out the likely schedule when I signed: a small chance of a flurry of activity right off, a much greater chance of editors asking for a ms., reading some or all of it, and then thinking about it. For a while. Until he prodded them.

    His suggestion: start a new project or continue on any WIPs. Don’t think about it until there’s something to think about. He also noted no one ever takes his advice. 🙂

    I’m not quite two months into the wait myself, and yes, it’s hard. What it highlights for me is the strange combination of traits it takes to be a writer–or an agent–and stay sane.

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