As 2015 begins, I’ve been musing about the business of writing, especially the tedious and inefficient process called “getting published.” In the past, I’ve compared finding an agent to searching for a job or a spouse, but if I learned one thing in 2014, it’s that authors face a far greater challenge. While job seekers and singles can take comfort in the knowledge that two interested parties are trying to find each other, the burden of securing an agent falls almost entirely on the author.
So why isn’t there a matching service that helps agents and authors find each other? On dating sites, members describe themselves and who they are seeking—aware that others are seeking them, too. Job boards allow candidates to “Find a job” and employers to “Find talent.” Even better, the latest job search apps (see New Year, New Job) target passive candidates with a tag line, “let the job find you.”
If only it worked that way with agents, but “Find an agent” websites don’t even have a dual path. It is up to the author to search agent information—which, too often, is broad, limited, and, I suspect, outdated almost as soon as it is posted. Because agents change agencies, preferred genres, and “dream books” according to market trends, authors often feel like we’re throwing darts and hoping one hits. It doesn’t help that every rejection letter reminds us, “This business is subjective. What doesn’t ring true with one agent may click with another, so keep trying.”
There is a better option: Make the process two-way by creating a clearinghouse for authors to submit a bio, query letter, synopsis, and sample pages in standard formats to a searchable database. Imagine how much more efficient that would be for all concerned. Authors would prepare one set of materials instead of tailoring them to each agency’s requirements. Agents could read what they want to. Query letter only? No problem. If they hate it, they can stop reading. If they like what they see, they can move on immediately to read sample pages or a synopsis, even the whole manuscript if they so choose. An approach like this might even encourage a dialogue between authors and interested agents!
How hard could it be to build a database, establish search parameters, and write a few algorithms to spit out potential matches between agents and authors? Monster, LinkedIn, and others have done it with resumes and work history. Match.com and eHarmony have done it with personal profiles and dating preferences. There might be a few kinks to work out–privacy, for one–but I think most authors would jump at the chance. Whoever out there wants to take this on, I’ve written an irresistible tag line for your marketing efforts: “Let the agent find you!”