Literary agents claim they accept only 1% of the submissions they receive from potential authors. According to literary agents, they reject the other 99% of submissions because:
- 87 % of the material is considered amateurish and unpublishable.
- 4 % of the material is considered high quality but it lacks a target market.
- 4 % of the material is considered good but the market for it is already saturated.
- 3 % of the material has a potential market but is poorly written or researched.
- 1 % of the material is considered potentially good, if the writing is revised and polished.
With their understanding of what publishers are looking for, literary agents consider these five factors prior to representing an author’s work:
1. The Quality of Your Writing. Agents want original, well-written, and non-derivative works. A writer’s understanding of their genre as well as their reader’s expectations is essential to produce quality material. For practical/prescriptive nonfiction, agents look for: A structure that flows logically and leads the reader to a specific goal, and writing that delivers help to solve a problem or make one’s life better.
2. The Marketability of the Book. Agents consider how many readers the book will attract. If you can identify a large, specific group of potential readers who want or need what you plan to write about you will increase your chances of snagging an agent and a book deal. If the market could already be saturated (such as books on the next best diet), unless you can prove that your idea is unique and that you have an established network of readers, your agent will consider it a hard sell and take a pass. Agents may also consider whether a book will tie in with current events that will help sell it to readers.
3. Potential for Subsidiary Rights. Subsidiary rights present a potential bounty of revenue for an author, and hence, an author’s agent. If your book has the possibility to be serialized, made into a film or television movie, become a book-of-the-month club selection, or merchandised in other ways, an agent will weigh this information when considering you as a client.
4. Your Author Platform. Agents expect nonfiction authors to have an established platform before approaching them for representation. In particular, agents say they look for a strong web presence including a website or blog and social media networking that builds the writer’s readership base. If a book is synergistic with an author’s brand, an agent sees potential for additional promotion, publicity, and sales.
5. Your Potential Writing Career. For a literary agent, investing in a writer requires a commitment of time and resources, and the agent’s reputation. The agent wants to ensure his or her commitment is worth the effort by investing in an author who will have a career in writing; an author who will produce more than one book and will be passionate about promoting and sustaining their writing career.