Getting Literary Agents to Read a First-Time Author’s Manuscript

Q: I’ve finished my first novel. I’ve spent a great deal of time editing and polishing it into a very good story with great characters and an exciting plot. I’ve read hundreds of articles about how to get an agent. I’ve researched in various publications which agents represent the kind of story I have. I’ve written query letters, synopsis, summary’s and everything else I can think of. I’ve sent 65 query letters to agents and can’t get anyone to even read my work. What do I do from here? I, like most authors think I have a great book and three more on the way, but how do I get someone to read my work if I’ve never published before? -Phil

A: Phil, my gut reaction is that the novel probably isn’t quite ready to go to agents yet. For example: the first six sentences of your question started with the same “I’ve”; also, “summary’s” should be spelled “summaries”. Yeah, these are minor points, but these are the kinds of things that we agents look at immediately. These kinds of mistakes too often – and often undeservedly – consign you to the “reject” pile.

If you feel that you don’t want to work on further revisions, and want to get the book out as quickly as you can, you might want to consider self-publishing, or print-on-demand, or one of the other venues available. Know, though, that unless your book is very successful (i.e., you sell more than 2000 copies), or lightning strikes (i.e., a publisher/agent picks up your book somewhere and falls madly in love), this may not be the best way to enhance your writing career with the traditional old-guard in the publishing world – but that’s your decision, of course.

I know that everybody is focused on previous publications – which are an important part of an author’s CV, no question – but more important is having really great writing and a really fabulous polished book. This is a lot easier to say than to do, I know.

Jeff Kleinman, Literary Agent
Co-Founder of
Folio Literary Management