Knowing that getting a book from acceptance by a publisher to the market takes six to eight months, I pulled a manuscript tentative titled The Kurile Wedge Incident out of the “archives” of my computer. It is the sixth book in the Josh Haman series.

And, as I opened the file, I started thinking about my options. Do I try to go through the literary agent? This would theoretically get it placed with a big publishing house but could takes months or years. Or, do I send it to a large independent publisher? Result would be the same, but again, the process may take months. Or, do I send it to a publisher with whom I already have a relationship?

I’m wrestling with this decision for several reasons. The literary agent query process is quirky and is much a matter of content as it is about timing. You never know what the agent is looking for at that moment in time and your efforts can wind up in the delete box for any number of reasons, none of which have to do with either the quality of the query or the manuscript.

Finding an agent is a time consuming process. First, you have to research the agents to find ones that represent my genre. Then I have to write a customized query. No two agents ask for the same info in the same way. So, do I want to (a) go through the effort and (b) wait that long. The best analogy I can use is sending a query to an agent is akin to sitting on a desert island and tossing a message in a bottle into the sea hoping that someone will find it. Trust me, I did it with Big Mother 40 and it is frustrating and lots of work.

On the other hand, getting an agent to represent your work is the key to getting a manuscript into the hands of a large publisher. That’s something I want to do but again, is it worth the hassle?

Sooooo, I’m between the proverbial rock and the hard place.

Literary agents get thousands of queries every month. Many authors don’t follow their instructions and their queries right into the into electronic trash can. Others aren’t of the genre the agent is looking for at the moment in time it is read so they too go into the delete file. Another group are poorly written and bang, with the push of a key, they’re in the trash.

So, imagine you are the staffer assigned to sort through the “query box.” Time is of the essence and you’re probably under pressure to complete other tasks so each query gets, if the author is lucky, 30 seconds. Or, if you are the agent, how much time do you want to spend looking for a new author when you have a stable who produce work that you can “sell” to the publishers with whom you have relationships.

New authors out to get their first work published represent a greater challenge and/or risk and/or investment. I get that. But one would think that someone like me who have been through the publishing process five times to produce five books, one would be attractive…

This brings me back to the “to find a literary agent or not” question and I’m still at square one. At this moment in time, I don’t have the answer.

Marc Liebman

April 2017