Why Agents Reject So Many Submissions

I happened to notice a writer ask the question of "Why do literary agents reject so many good submissions?"

The answer is simple mathPhoto credit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ktheory/21905281/
The answer is simple math.

A literary agent get anywhere from 25 to 100 submissions each and every day.

The agent themselves has to represent each work to publishers. Just as it takes the author time to send out their manuscript and cover letters, so too will it take the agent time to try to sell each work to publishers.

Maybe they can take on one or two new projects, if that, a week. If they get 200 submissions in a week, but they can only take two on to promote, that's the simple answer: they must reject 198 submissions and they can accept two.

On a related note, a few words about pitches:

At first I was really bothered by this notion that I needed to be able to describe my book in less than twenty words to pitch it to an agent.

Then I heard an agent speak at Willamette Writers Con. The agent's job is to take the book and pitch it to publishers. They have a minute or two on the phone with the publisher. They need to be able to describe it in just a few words, and then leave time for questions.

If the publisher wants it, they'll need to pitch the book to distributors, book stores, and readers. If the publisher can't put a twenty word blurb on the back that describes the book, then it won't sell.

So if you, the author, can't come up with a twenty word pitch, how can you expect the agent or the publisher to do it?

Once I realized all of that, my resistance to the short pitch evaporated.
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