How to Get an Agent, and How to Deal with Failure

With a tip of the hat to Larry Correia.

Step 1: Write Book.

Step 2: Pick Agent who, based on their past representation, will be interested in your book.

Step 3: Submit to Agent.

Step 3a: Get Rejected. Return to Step 2.

Step 3b: After several iterations of the 3a Loop, throw hands in air and self-publish or leave the book in the desk drawer, never to be read.

Step 4: Sign contract with Agent. You now Win at Life.

That’s pretty simple, right?

Of course it is. And like almost all simple things, it’s not really easy.

First, you have to write a book. Which is a time-consuming slog of ambition and drive, slaying self-doubt and inertia along the way. Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art is your guide to that mess.

Then, you have figure out, based on The Writer’s Guide or some such other resource, what agents will want to see your un-requested submission. This is informed guesswork.

Then, you will knock your head into pieces trying to write a cover letter that indicates you to be a) a serious, professional sort of person, who happens to be b) the author of a book they will want to represent. This is harder than it looks.

You will be wrong about this. Most of the time. I wrote my first novel fifteen years ago. I submitted it. It was rejected. Looking back, I can see why it was rejected. It’s a bit all over the place, a bit Byzantine in plot, a bit loose in characterization. But I love it. I loved creating it. It’s gonna come out some day.

I wrote short pieces from the same universe (it’s my fantasy world I’ve alluded to earlier). They were also rejected. I despaired of all the rejection and gave up for a little while. Other things got in the way. I did self-publishing (My Amazon Author Page is pretty full actually). None of those got me the success I was looking for.

But I am committed. So I keep going. After I finish The Sword, I’m going to move on to the next book. And then the next, and then the next, until a) I drop dead and leave my work to the ages to judge, or b) people find value in what I’m doing (which is really just the same as a), when you thing about it).

So the process of getting an agent is the process of creating art is the process of accepting and internalizing the surety of failure. Failure is okay. Failure is normal. A book that doesn’t sell is better than no book at all, and only ruling-class gatekeeper trolls say otherwise.

Fail until you win.


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