One chance in 11,000. That’s what an article in Poets & Writers magazine gave as a back-of-the-envelope estimate for the chances of a new author not getting a rejection from an agent based on an unsolicited query.
Those kinds of odds are nearly enough to be discouraging. Of course, the chances of being noticed by an agent isn’t random and the odds are much better than playing the lottery which is random. There are ways to improve my odds:
- The odds improve when I target my queries are sent to agencies that are open to new authors.
- The odds improve when I target an agent who has shown, through previous sales, to be interested in taking on a project like mine.
- The odds improve when I craft a query letter that successfully represents my novel and showcases my writing abilities.
But the process by which an agent determines which project she might take on as described in that article isn’t random, pull-an-author-from-a-hat. The example used was of how I, as a reader, might choose a book from a table in a bookstore: glance at the title, at the blurb, see if it grabs my attention. If so, read further. By doing the best job I can to put my query into the hands of an agent receptive to what I’ve written, I’ve improved my odds significantly.
Great. That, and the hope that the agent has the right cup of coffee on the day he gets to my query letter probably improves my odds to 1:6000. As a rough estimate, of course. Maybe those odds are a bit discouraging.
What really improves my odds? Actually sending that query out. Excuse me. I have work to do.