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Top Ten Ways To Annoy Literary Agents

At Writer’s Relief our submission strategists are always on hand so our clients know the best ways to interact with literary agents. Even if you’re not a client, here are some deal breakers you’ll want to avoid when submitting your book.

1. Beginning your novel with long descriptions of the weather or the scenery. Avoid an “information dump” right off the bat, including drawn-out descriptions of the main character or backstory.

2. Beginning your novel with a cliché. If it feels even mildly familiar, skip it.

3. Asking an agent for a detailed critique of your submission or for a detailed explanation of a rejection.

4. Writing clueless query letters. Queries that brag, grovel, and show a lack of professional know-how are a no-go to literary agents.

5. Missing deadlines. Writers who promise a synopsis within a week should deliver.

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6. Insisting on becoming “part of the process” in areas best left to other professionals. Writers should not push their cover art ideas on a literary agent or second-guess the agent’s advice on legal contracts. There’s a big difference between integrating yourself in the process in an intelligent, well-informed way and being a royal pain.

7. Querying with inappropriate material. Agents who specifically represent one genre (westerns) are annoyed by submissions of other genres (horror). Do your research, or have Writer’s Relief do it for you.

8. Being a prima donna. If you land a contract, this is not the time to become high-maintenance.

9. Trying to get noticed with gimmicks. Agents aren’t impressed by authors who write their queries with silver gel pens on black paper or who include a miniature doll to represent their main character.

10. Reacting immaturely to rejection. Blasting an agent for rejecting your novel by blogging about them will only tarnish your reputation as a serious and professional writer.

3 Responses to Top Ten Ways To Annoy Literary Agents

  1. I wish agents would at least use a collection of general feedback replies from which they could choose for each response. Just general, initial direction for the newbie to learn from. Something as basic as categories like: subject not interesting, query was weak, not marketable at present, etc. It would be no more effort than choosing the pre-canned response they presently use and they could have whatever legalese/disclaimer of their choice to cover themselves. Right now, I feel like I’m merely sending flares off into a great big abyss.

  2. Oh, and I heard – I mean, I’m not sure about this one, but I seem to recall someone mentioning – that they’re not too keen on you following them around their hometown with a balaclava and a baseball bat.
    Or sending them photos of yourself naked (this one I know FOR SURE, because the restraining order is still on my file).
    Oh – oh – and they can’t STAND it when you frame them for crimes they didn’t commit! They get, like, seriously put out! Ahhh, good times.
    I’d better go ring my lawyer.

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