Agency Lessons: Not a good fit

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Today's post comes from a reader question. If you have questions of your own, you can submit them with this simple form. Now, on to the question:

"What does it mean when an agent says "it's not a good fit for me" when it was exactly what they were requesting?"

Good question. I think the best way to answer this is to imagine a library. Just stick with me on this, I promise it makes sense in a minute.

So let's say I'm a reader and I head into the library to pick out my next good read. There are hundreds of thousands of books to pick from, but the good news is that I already know what I want. That's is, I don't know the exact title, but I know what kind of book I want.

I head straight to the fantasy section because I'm in the mood for a good dragon story. I know I want one with a female main character and a cool magic system. So I search through the catalog. Know what I find? No less than a dozen books that meet this criteria.

Now, I want to read a good story, but I don't want to read a dozen of them. So I scan the back cover blurb and discover that while all of them have dragons and magic and daring ladies, these stories are all vastly different. Some of them will sound great. Some of them will miss the mark. Others will sound a little too much like another dragon story I've already read. I take a look at the contenders and pick one or two that sound promising and put the rest back on the shelf.

Sound familiar? It should, because this is how most of us pick our next book to read. You might love science fiction space stories, but you know they aren't all created equal and not every author's writing style is going to work for you. You read some, you ignore the others.

As agents, we do the exact same thing. There is so much more to a story than it's subject matter. That is only one part of the equation. Even if a query has all the components of the type of story we are looking for, it can miss in other areas and that means it's a pass. Also, your dragon story might show up at the same time as another similar story and the other one is simply stronger.

There are lots of reasons an agent might pass on a story that sounds like exactly what they are looking for. And there's nothing you can do about that. So much of this industry is subjective. Because readers are subjective. Not a good fit simply means that...not a good fit. As an author, mark that agent as a pass and keep querying. You never know when your perfect fit is right around the corner.