When new authors query an agent for representation, it can feel like you’re Oliver Twist asking for a morsel of food. The agents are busy people, caught up (so it seems) in a whirlwind of literary activity. The authors agents depend on for their livelihood could pop up at anytime, but they are hiding among hundreds of other would be clients.
At the querying stage, the agent is the gatekeeper to the traditional publishing world. Authors want in, and agents hold the keys. That is, until they open the gate. Agents play important roles in an author’s career, and the gatekeeper function is only the first hurdle a debut author has to overcome. But once an agent offers to represent an author, the power dynamic of their relationship shifts.
The author becomes a business partner with the agent. They have to work together to land a book deal for the author’s work. In a perfect world, that is an ongoing process for every book the author writes. Agent’s don’t get paid until authors get paid. So it behooves agents to make sure their clients are able and willing to build a career, not just a one book wonder.
So while struggling to escape an agent’s (now digital) slush pile, keep in mind that the struggle is only the first battle to be won. Landing your dream agent is a major win, but it isn’t the destination. You still have work to do to reach a publishing deal, earn out any advance you get, and build your audience ahead of any other books you write in the future. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? (But completely worth it in my humble opinion.)