Literary agents are often perceived as the gatekeepers for the publishing world. There seems to be an image of us at our desks smiling as we gleefully strike down the dreams of aspiring writers. Well, first this image is inaccurate because we rarely have the chance to read submissions during office hours. Most of our reading is after work and on the weekends. Most literary agents would be reluctant to call themselves gatekeepers and rejecting writers is a difficult part of the job.
It is true that literary agents become gatekeepers because editors rely on literary agents to find the books that would resonate with readers in the marketplace.
However, unlike bouncers and gatekeepers, literary agents want to say yes. They want to find that sparkling manuscript – they want to read something great. Discovering an amazing manuscript is similar to what I imagine it would have been like for gold miners finding gold in California.
Most literary agencies have a waiting period of 6-8 weeks after submitting. Why? One thing that has always amazed me is how many people do write and complete an entire manuscript – it’s very impressive. As an agency, we receive over 1000 submissions each month. And those are the unsolicited manuscripts.
This is why it’s incredibly important to perfect your cover letter and your manuscript before sending it to a literary agent, because they are working on limited time.