This article is written in jest, but with decades of truth behind it.
No, we agents are not infallible and aren’t always right. We try not to sound arrogant or snooty. We genuinely would like to see you succeed, whether we are your agent or not! Our hope is you learn from what others have done or done incorrectly.
Drum roll please:
1. Call a week after sending your proposal to ask what we think of it.
2. Include glitter in your envelope if you’ve sent a printed copy of your proposal to my office.
3. Send a bribe (I mean “gift”) as part of the proposal. (I’ve received cash, signed memorabilia of famous people, framed artwork, and more.)
4. Respond to my rejection letter with vile and offensive language in return. (And I’m talking about the worst of the worst.)
5. Address the communication with my name misspelled. And then continue the error throughout your correspondence.
6. Address the communication to someone who doesn’t work here. (Happened last week.)
7. Start your pitch with “I know you don’t do books like this, but you will want to make an exception with mine.”
8. At a writers conference, use the restroom as your place to pitch your idea.
9. Ask that I click on a link in your email to access your proposal file. (We know better than to click malware links.)
10. Fail to follow the agency guidelines; but, instead, send a generic pitch to every agent in the universe and include them all in the cc line of your email.
11. The body of your email says “Here it is.” No signature line, no information in the email at all. Or, even worse, the body of the email is blank. (This happens multiple times a month.)
12. Send your proposal to all four of us at the agency simultaneously, and don’t tell us. We do tend to talk to one another.
Fortunately, most writers do not do these things. They stand out for a reason. Instead, strive to be professional and respectful.
Well, MY persuasive method isn’t on the list.
This proposal I am sending
is one that you can really use,
and while your ear I’m bending,
it’s an offer that you can’t refuse.
It’ll give us all some wealth,
and my associates are really keen
to keep you in the best of health
if you know just what I mean,
so please give this a lot of thought;
decide it well, we do implore,
or you very truly ought
to get more locks upon the door
for you won’t need a crystal ball
to know Fam’ly will come to call.
Deer mister Lowbe, That wuz berry funny. Eye will knot forever yore good advice. Mie spellcheck is broke.
Jim L Hurst Jr
Wow, I didn’t realize what all you do put up with as a literary agent. No wonder it is so hard to win your respect and attention after years of being treated that way. God be with you sir.
After one has spent years writing a book it is most disheartening to get a two line negative response from a prospective Publisher. A writer cannot always give a publisher what he/she is looking for. A publisher is bound to miss a great book if he approaches with a closed mind.
Do you want my list of ways to annoy a prospective unpublished author?
#1 People posing as literary agents who are actually selling classes.
#2 People posing as literary agents who require their clients to have already established what they are hired to do. “That’s just the way it is!”
#3 Literary agents who are more interested in writing condesceding blogs than reading manuscripts.
I laughed out loud at some of these. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but in this instance the guidelines are so clear and your agency is so clear about what you want that it makes sense these issues would bug you over time. Thanks for the laugh, Steve.
The intent of today’s post was humorous. It is a tip of the iceberg of things we’ve seen over the years.
A couple months ago, after sending a ‘no thank you’ rejection letter I received the following in reply:
“You yourself are not only rude and uneducated but a person that should be looking for another job. God bless you.”
.Steve, what advice can you give to a traditionally published writer, who was fortunate enough to have obtained the services of one of the leading Christian literary agencies, and whose first book has done moderately well, and is now receiving unsolicited manuscripts (not proposals – entire manuscripts) from folks who want his help in finding an agent or publisher? Asking for a friend.
Great question Sy.
I have many clients who have a document pre-prepared to send to those who ask. Something like “First steps in pursuing publication.” This is sent rather than trying to give personalized advice.
Some simplify it by writing, “Go to The Steve Laube Agency site and dig into the resources found there.” With over 2,500 posts the blog has been described as a free community college course on publishing.
Steve, a great laugh to start the week! I had a woman slip a note under the door of a bathroom stall written on toilet paper. She believed I was supposed to help her get publishhed. She got flushed.
Some of these made me roll my eyes while at least one of them made me laugh out loud! Sometimes it’s good to see what someone on the “other side” of the agent situation goes through.
Thanks for the laugh!
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ha ha! Your inbox sounds like an exciting place to find craziness!
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Steve, I could write a list on how to annoy a college professor. It would start with “yell and be abusive.” I hope you don’t ever have that, though the using foul language would rank right up there!