Agent #33 – the minimalist approach

Agent #30 – she of the techno impressive submission process – came back today with a no. There was so little on her website – it was more of a page than a site – that I wasn’t sure exactly how her response would come…if in fact any sort of response would come at all. Turns out I got clocked with a “No thanks” the good old-fashioned way – with a brief email: “Thank you for the query. I’m sorry to report that I don’t think that I’m the right agent for this novel.” Out of curiosity I logged onto my account to see if my status had changed. And there it was – in red, no less – the word that every aspiring author cringes over: DECLINED.

Okay, so moving on…

I’m now up to Agent #33. In order to get to this one, I had to burn through the next five on my list of potential agents. One of them is no longer taking submissions at all. Another one is no longer taking fiction submissions. The third one is only taking submissions by referral (meaning they only want to hear from you if you know someone who knows them so good luck with that). The next one turned out to be a one-man show in some town I’d never heard of and he only accepts snail mail queries and only for “literary fiction”. I thought to myself, Really? In this day and age? Only snail mail? Something told me that the revolution currently underway in his industry with the growing popularity of eReaders and ebooks was bypassing anyone who only wanted to hear from people via dead trees. So I skipped over him tout suite. And the last one now only handles screenplays. At this rate I’ll be through my entire list by the time summer kicks in.

And so I landed on the agent who became #33. She’s from an agency in Boston whose website was surprisingly…let’s just call it “minimalist.” No pictures, no graphics, no animated typewriters or fountain pens, no big sell on “what we can do for you” or “you’ll be lucky to have us as your agent”, no flattering profile photos, and no long-winded guidelines on how to query them. Just a sampling of the kinds of books they’ve sold recently and a brief outline of the backgrounds of the three agents and what they’re looking for.

I chose to approach the third one because she hasn’t been an agent for long and is therefore probably hungrier than the other two who have been agents for around 10 years. Also this woman said she’s looking for “quality commercial fiction” as well as historicals and “compelling characters deserving of a wide audience.” I guess every agent likes to think of their characters as being “compelling” and we’re all looking for as wide an audience as possible. For someone like me, the most likely path towards that is through somebody like this agent who is new to the biz and therefore probably young and eager and therefore hip to the concept that no trees had to die in the making of this submission.


About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author writing about the golden era of Hollywood in his series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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