Monday, April 10, 2006

More Agent Dislikes

Agents and editors have some strong opinions about what they dislike to receive from authors. It’s critical to understand these dislikes so your submission gains a proper hearing from the recipient.  Otherwise you are wasting your energy on even submitting the material.

There are twenty-five dislikes in a chapter of Author 101 Bestselling secrets from Top Agents, The Insider’s Guide to What Agents and Publishers Really Want by Rick Frishman and Robyn Spizman. I wrote about five of these dislikes and today I’m going to cover five additional ones.  Like the previous list, these came in a random order and I’m going to mix my comments with some quotations from this book.Author 101 agent

Not revealing what a book is about

Firsthand I’m familiar with this kind of pitch because as an editor, they come into my mailbox. The writer believes they can write a “tease” to the agent and get them to request the manuscript. All too often this type of teasing query just gets flatly rejected or ignored.  Here’s what Frishman and Spizman write about it, “Simply saying that a book is good is not sufficient to motivate an agent to look at a manuscript. Agents need more information, including what the topic and premise are, in order to decide if the book is something they wish to consider. So tell them up front and save everyone valuable time.”

Writers who call and pitch

It’s pretty easy to understand this dislike from agents.  When it comes to pitching book ideas, it’s the written word that is going to make the greatest impression.  Some writers prefer to pitch their ideas on the telephone—which makes an impression—just not a positive impression. As Author 101 says under this point, “Agents are busy and they’re not looking for salespeople. They’re looking for writers. Although they screen their calls, some stragglers slip through…Many writers insist on calling and trying to pitch their books over the phone. Their pitches waste agents’ time and can irritate them. Agents are reluctant to get involved with writers who don’t learn about their policies and follow them.”

“Idea-a-day” authors

I’m sure you know these types of writers—and maybe you are one. Ideas are everywhere but the critical matter is which idea do you spend your focus and energy to carry out? When it comes to brainstorming ideas, don’t turn to your agent but instead bounce these ideas off another writer or a friend or let your research about the market, gather your validation for the idea.  Frishman and Spizman write, “Try not to wear your agent out by barraging him or her with more ideas than he or she can digest…Agents appreciate authors who respect their time and don’t continually use them as sounding boards for unformulated ideas.”

Authors who forget that agents have private lives

It’s pretty easy to understand this dislike from agents. The point returns to a basic wrong assumption. Yes, the agent works for his clients but they have a life beyond the business aspects of publishing—at least we try to have that type of life.  I tend to give the wrong impression at times in this area when I answer email on Sunday afternoon or late at night. As Author 101 says, “Some authors are demanding and insensitive with agents; they call them ten times a day, on holidays, after hours, before hours and even on weekends. Agents are not on call 24/7. They are not your shrink or your babysitter; they have families, lives of their own, and clear working hours.”


You may find this last dislike surprising but agents (and editors) can detect this attitude in a heartbeat.  Each of us should be aware of this attitude and how easily it can creep into your communication with the agent.  With the type of volume of work and years in this business, I still have a lot to learn. Here’s what Frishman and Spizman write in part about this dislike, “Some writers believe that they know more about the publishing industry than their agents do, when they actually know very little about it. When some individuals read an article or two or a book about the publishing world, they begin to think of themselves as authorities on it. While it’s important for writers to know and understand the book business, it’s foolish and arrogant for them to believe that their knowledge is equivalent or superior to that of professionals who have had careers in publishing.”

I’ve covered ten of twenty-five agent dislikes from this how-to book.  Hopefully it gives you some things to consider for your own writing life and interaction with agents and editors. 

1 Comment:

At 5:30 AM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

Thanks Terry!


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