I frequent several literary agent blogs and other social media outlets to keep tabs on things. While their advice and insight is invaluable, I’ve seen most of the agents post items about writers who just don’t get it.
Essentially, these writers do not read. Because if they did, they would know a thing or two about how to approach a literary agent (or publisher for that matter). So, what are some of the biggest sins of ye writer folk?
Submission Guidelines – Yes, there are rules and they are different for each agent. Not everyone wants sample pages along with your query. And nobody wants your whole, unsolicited manuscript. Sending that along is the equivalent of running into a brick wall at 100 miles per hour – you’re going to get nowhere and chances are good it’s gonna hurt.
Making Contact – Let’s face it, nobody enjoys a phone call out of the blue from someone who hasn’t read the guidelines. When you pick up the phone and call an agent, it is an intrusion upon them and the process of getting your words into print. If you call an agent and harrass them, be prepared to receive a few curt words and other assorted responses, because all are justified.
Talking Back – If you’ve received a rejection on your query, the game should stop right there with that agent. Why? Because they said no, and that is that. Some writers see NO in reverse, thinking the game is still ON, and reply to the agent’s rejection. While it might seem nice to thank the agent for their rejection, it won’t help you. Even more, if you tell them off in your reply, your name will go on their bulletin board and be shared with their agent friends. Like the old shampoo commercial, the agent will tell two friends, who will tell two friends, and so on and so on. When you receive a NO, leave the agent alone.
Lack of Patience – You are not the only one querying agents. Your writer brethren are right there with you, pumping agent inboxes full of e-mails. Don’t forget they’ve also got partial and full manuscripts piled in their offices (most agents read these at night and on the weekends, because that’s the only time they have to do so). It takes time to get through it all, and it never stops. While sometimes you get lucky and an agent responds within minutes, others may take months. Make patience your virtue.
Just like any business, the ship of literary representation must run smoothly. Interruptions, rudeness, and harrassment aren’t part of the game with this or any other business. If you do find representation with a literary agent, then of course you’re free to make contact. After all, they’ve found a gem in your work, and want to work with you. Until then, though, read the rules, be respectful, and be patient.