The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for by Donald Maass

By Donald Maass

The profession Novelist is like having your individual own literary agent in your bookshelf!

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Most people cannot. That is the reason that the My-book-is-hoV. pitch fails. Even if your story does reflect a current news trend, by the time the book hits the stores that trend will be ice cold. Authors who employ this pitch may, unconsciously, want to relieve their rejection anxiety. Putting pressure on an agent or publisher, they imagine, will shorten the agonizing wait for a response. Unfortunately, all this approach really accomplishes is to lengthen the odds against a positive reply. "I know my novel is dynamite.

In case you are still skeptical, let me say a bit more about that avalanche. How big is the slush pile, each company's stack of unrequested manuscripts? At the Donald Maass Literary Agency we receive, on average, about five thousand queries a year. Now, out of those five thousand queries only one or two per day persuade us to request a partial manuscript. That means that as few as one in nineteen are chosen for this limited appraisal. A more enthusiastic response from us is a request for a complete manuscript.

40 Choosing an agent Given that, why do some well-established writers stay in place? Perhaps because they are comfortable doing business in an oldfashioned way. The old rules, they may feel, were easy to understand. The new world of publishing, on the other hand, can be cold and corporate. To these writers an old-fashioned agent may feel like an ally in a hostile world. They want to hold change at bay. That is a shame, because when you think about it such writers may be holding back their careers, perhaps even their creative development.

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