According to an unofficial survey conducted by, one of the most common question writers have is this: Why can’t I get an agent?

As an agent, I get this question all the time. And since I’m an agent, I’m supposed to have an answer. And I do, but it’s not always the answer writers want to hear—or are ready to hear.

But here we go:

The Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Get an Agent

  • THE IDEA for your story isn’t strong enough.

Even well-executed, if the idea is not unique enough to set it apart from all the other stories out there in the same sub-genre, then an agent is going to have trouble selling it. If I can’t pitch it, I can’t sell it—and I pass.

  • THE LEVEL OF CRAFT is not high enough.

I once heard the swell agent Jason Yarn say that publishers are looking for stories that are 95% there in terms of craft, so he could only sign writers who were 90% there in terms of craft. Much of what I see in my inbox is between 50 and 75% there.

  • You haven’t found your SWEET SPOT as a writer yet.

To be published by a traditional publisher, you must find that sweet spot where your talent meets the marketplace. Agents sign writers whose projects are 1) fabulous and 2) something they think they can sell.

  • You may be a good writer, but you may not be a GOOD AUTHOR.

Being a good writer may win you a publishing contract, but it’s being a good author that will win you readers.

You must be prepared to master the business of publishing as well. This means embracing PR and marketing, social media, and more. Writers who tell me that they just want to write and nothing else will not make good authors in today’s world.

  • You come off as a possible PITA AUTHOR.

Like every other business, publishing is about relationships. If you’re rude or unprofessional or narcissistic, you’ll find yourself marked as a possible PITA author—as in pain in the ass. I know it can be hard to remain gracious in the face of what can seem like endless radio silence and rejection, but those who do mark themselves as writers who can handle the myriad pressures of publishing with aplomb and professionalism. Those are the authors agents are looking for—not PITA authors.

If you’re having trouble getting an agent, ask yourself if any of the above may apply to you. If you think not, first take this quiz, then ask your writer friends (preferably those who are published) what they think. And then listen.

And tell us all about it on our facebook page.