In the waiting game of dealing with literary agents there are several levels. The first entails initially sending out a basic query to an agent online, in a letter, or discussing your book in person. At this initial introductory stage most of us would-be writers out there often get a variety of replies: “Sorry, I’m too busy right now to take on new clients,” or “This isn’t the type of genre I’m looking for right now,” or sometimes you hear nothing at all. Usually, these all culminate in the same negative answer…“No.” But that’s all just part of the game. If you can get an agent further interested in your work the next stage usually involves sending them your synopsis and a “partial” of your manuscript (usually 1 to 3 chapters worth depending on the agent and the length of your book). I’m glad to say that I’ve had the fortune many times over to reach this stage, which exciting as it may be to have part of your novel in the hands of an actual agent, it doesn’t always end up meaning you’ve gotten any further.
However, I’ve just recently received a request from an agent for a copy of my full manuscript. This is after I had already provided the agent with a partial of my newly edited and revised version of my Civil War novel, The Long Defeat. Needless to say, I’m definitely excited to have sparked enough interest that I actually have an agent reviewing the entire manuscript for consideration. Most agents are so busy that they only rarely ask to see an entire manuscript, and it is usually because they think it has a good chance of not only impressing their own literary agency, but getting in the door with the publishing house that will ultimately publish the book. If and when an agent chooses to sign a contract with an author and back their book, they truly are out on a limb, because they must not only convince their peers in their own agency of the value of the book, but they must successfully pitch it to the publishing houses that can make or break any novel before it hits the shelves at your nearby Barnes and Noble or Borders, etc.
So, we’ll see how this next stage in my literary endeavors pans out. I’m hopeful and optimistic, as always, but it’s important also to remember that trying to publish fiction is a constant struggle against the odds. But then again, as my favorite fiction scoundrel (Han Solo) always says, “Never tell me the odds.”