How to Make (Some) Agents and Editors Smile

Believe it or not, agents and editors are people too.

In my experience, at least. They’re not mean or grumpy—most of them. They’re not lying in wait for a chance to dash a writer’s dreams. They don’t enjoy saying no.

They’re mostly a good sort. They like to be liked. And they truly appreciate and will often remember a few small things that writers do, whether in an email, in an appointment, or across the cafeteria table at a writers conference. If you want to make them smile (and possibly hold onto a positive memory of you), try doing these few simple things:

  1. Get his or her name right.

Sure, I get frequent emails with the salutation to “Steve.” That’s mostly understandable, since I am a serf—er, I mean representative—of The Steve Laube Agency. But I’ve also been addressed as “Ben,” “Bob Harrison,” and “Mr. Hostetzer,” among others. Believe me, I understand the ease of cut-and-paste and also how easy it is to misspell a name. (I once signed a book to a guy who said his name was Bob, and then handed it back to me, telling me it was spelled “Bobb.” Well, okay.) But whether in speech or writing, getting the name right is an elementary ingredient of a good first impression.

  1. Express curiosity.

Remember, editors and agents are (mostly) normal. Like most people, they feel honored and valued when someone asks questions about their life and work. So express curiosity. Ask, “What’s your favorite part of your job?” “What book are you most excited about right now?” and “What would you really love to see from writers that you’re not seeing?”

  1. Follow instructions.

Pay attention to editors’ and agents’ guidelines and preferences. If he says he prefers to see a full proposal, don’t send a query. If she says she’s not looking for fantasy, don’t say, “I know you say you don’t represent fantasy, but I think you’ll change your mind when you read this.” On the other hand, when you say something like, “I’ve benefited often from your blog posts so you may recognize my name as a frequent commenter” or “I noticed that your blurb in the conference mentioned a love for historical fiction,” you might get a nod, a smile, and a listening ear.

  1. Say “thank you.”

The cynic says, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I say, “Publishing, like the rest of life, is all about relationships.” So even if your idea didn’t result in a parade or confetti shower, a sincere “thank you” is always a good idea, whether it’s in person, via email, or in a handwritten note (remember those?). And in my case, a “Donutgram” is always a good way to say “thank you.”

Sure, these are all elementary. But you would probably be surprised at how rare these things are. Rare enough to elicit a smile from an overworked editor or agent.

Leave a Comment

Agent-of-the-Year Finalists

I am so very proud of Tamela Hancock Murray and Bob Hostetler. They have both been named as finalists for the Agent-of-the-Year award given annually by ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers – Tamela won this prestigious award in 2017 and is honored to be a finalist again. This is …

Read More

Our Agency’s 15th Anniversary

Hard to believe that it was 15 years ago this week that The Steve Laube Agency was formed. Happy anniversary to us! Since those nervous beginnings, we have been blessed by so many wonderful clients and publishing relationships. Over the years we have secured about 1,000 new contracts for more …

Read More

Criticism Is an Unhappy Part of the Business

I would like to tell you about a most enjoyable day. Our agency’s guidelines request that unsolicited manuscripts come via the post (I know it’s old-school but it works for us), but we still receive e-mail submissions. I spent an entire morning going through that particular in-box, having an assistant send standard e-mail rejection letters, since none were anything our agency could/would handle.

Very soon I received three separate responses:

Read More

One Agent’s Rearview Mirror

Since I was nineteen years old (yes, I was that young once, smart aleck), I’ve set goals every January instead of making resolutions. I set one-year, three-year, five-year, and lifetime goals in six categories: spiritual life, physical/health, intellectual/educational, marriage/family, financial/household, and professional (writing, speaking, agenting). Yes, I am a tad …

Read More

A Year in Review – a Look at 2018

It is a good thing to periodically take a look at the past, especially as a way to count our blessings. Here are some thoughts on the last twelve months. The Industry The publishing industry continues to pursue the best content possible. Market forces continue to press for the need …

Read More

The Only Answer

Hope you had a blessed Christmas!

The last four weeks I have posted what was, in actuality, an Advent series. Note the key words in each post:


 The Christmas season is one that is full of family, fun, food, and friends. But under it all is the foundation of our joy. The answer to our greatest longing. Of course, saying there is an answer assumes there is a question. Finances, relationships, job, writing, family, church, and school all ask different questions.

Read More

The Worst Parts of Being an Agent

I’m not one to complain. Although I didn’t sleep too well last night, and my coffee was a little weak this morning. And I spilled some on my shirt. But I mean, otherwise, I’m not one to complain. After all, there are many great things happening in my life right …

Read More

Changes in the Agency

The Greek philosopher Plato, in quoting Heraclitus, wrote, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.” Some say it another way, “The only constant is change.” In 2016 Dan Balow started a small publishing company called Gilead Publishing, which he has been overseeing in his “spare time” while simultaneously being a great …

Read More