What Agents Dislike
Whether you have an agent or not, it’s always good from my view to learn about agent’s dislikes. Because agents have to turn around and sell their projects to editors and publishers, it’s great information. You can be fairly certain the dislikes are similar for editors.
The chapter with this content comes late in the new book from Rick Frishman and Robyn Spizman called Author 101 Bestselling secrets from Top Agents, The Insider’s Guide to What Agents and Publishers Really Want. I was interested in their preface to a list of the top 25 agent dislikes: “The fact that agents have so many gripes graphically drummed home to us the message of just how much agents judge and evaluate writers. When writers try to get an agent, they are asked to run a difficult course, and run it under a microscope. Although the level of scrutiny that writers receive is huge, it is definitely surmountable. However, it may take some adjustment and work. Read the following items that agents dislike and alter your approaches accordingly. Hopefully, the changes you make will improve your chances of convincing the agent you want to represent you and will help you work better and more productively.”
Instead of covering all 25 dislikes, since Frishman and Spizman built a random list, I’m going to select five entries to give you a taste of what is here.
Unwillingness to promote a book
If you read these entries often you should not be surprised to find this dislike. Agents and editors alike are looking for authors who understand this essential part of the process. Here’s part of what they said under this entry, “Few nonfiction books can be successful if they’re not energetically promoted. Promoting a book can be grueling, and some writers are shocked when agents and editors tell them everything they are expected to do. If you’re unwilling or unable to promote your book, discuss it with your agent as soon as possible to identify efforts that you can make and find ways to do those promotional tasks that didn’t seem possible.”
Bad attitudes, or a feeling of superiority
Agents and editors quickly become experts at spotting someone who is overselling themselves or their idea. As these authors write, “Unless you have good verifiable reasons, don’t claim that the market for your book is exceptionally broad. If you think that your book will actually be the next Chicken Soup, dig up facts and figures to prove it.”
Writers who don’t trust their agents’ advice
You might find this one surprising. As an editor, you’d be surprised how often this happens. You’ve established a relationship (read hired) your agent for a reason—their expertise. As the authors write, “Agents are professionals; they know the publishing business and the literary market. They generally know more about what editors want and need than writers do. Also, they usually see the big picture better….It seems counterproductive to hire and pay an expert and not listen to his or her advice!”
Writers who don’t contact their agent when problems arise
If you don’t think there are problems or at least discussion points in the process of creating a product, then you don’t have a realistic view. It happens all the time and the key is to understand you have a resource when it happens—your agent. As these authors write, “Agents can provide creative second opinions. They usually have extensive experience in publishing and frequently they are accomplished editors. They can also be a writer’s best advisor.”
Writers who call their agent too much
“Many agents who are sole proprietors don’t have staffs, so they do most office tasks themselves. Find out when it will be convenient for them to speak with you, and schedule a phone conference at a time that will work for both of you.”
Maybe most of these dislikes were pretty obvious to you. I’m going to include five more in my next entry.