Five Rules to Winning Over a Literary Agent

It’s really only been a few months now that I’ve been hacking away at a directory of literary agents, trying to find the right one to represent me and my book. I’ve read all about the process of finding a literary agent and and know the process can be long, arduous, and full of rejection. As I reminded myself through several panic attacks over the last few weeks–even J.K Rowling was rejected over 100 TIMES!

I don’t even have wizards or redheads in my book. I’m fucked.

But I pushed forward and took a lot of time crafting my proposal. Because I’m not writing a fictional novel, I don’t actually submit a finished manuscript to a prospective literary agent. I just send them a very detailed outline of what the book will look like, smell like, sound like, and how many people I personally know who have agreed to buy multiple copies. I also added a list of the men in publishing that I’ve slept with and included a head shot to show my facial features are symmetrical enough to appear on a book jacket.–Or I might have just sent a 40-page summary of the project and my career–one or the other.

And I’m proud to say I’m now an official expert on rejection. I’m like really, really good at it by now. And while I know many of you are here for the chronic illness advice–I figured you’ll all probably want to write your life story (because living with chronic illness is wayyy more fascinating than a normal life) and so this is good advice to keep stocked away with the extra toilet paper and Daisy razors.

#1 –  Use the Agent’s Name When Writing to Them



This is obvious, right? I don’t actually need to tell you this, right? I’m just saying it because when people used to pitch to me at Today’s Teen they’d address me as “Dear Editor,” or “Manager of Today’s Teen” or sometimes, like, “Hi Amanda!” Who the fuck is Amanda? I don’t care if you’re sending out your email in triplicates–just let them know that you’ve put in the five seconds of work to look up your name before you write them an email. Rude…

#2 Read the Submission Guidelines

No, Hermoine. It's not. It's called wasting somebody's time.

No, Hermione. It’s not. It’s called getting your email deleted.

Don’t send it in the mail. Only send it to one agent. Don’t include an attachment. Add a sexy come-on. Only wear purple while writing the proposal. Add a ten word bio of yourself only using verbs. Whatever they want, give it to them. Just give it to them.

#3 Don’t Claim You’re the Next Stephen Kingtumblr_m30esbq4LH1r5we8w

I had a gym teacher who nicknamed me “King” in elementary school because I liked to write. At the time I was way too young to read The Stand. Now I’m not even that big a fan (although I was addicted to the first season of Under the Dome.) But I wouldn’t be a big enough of a dumb ass to claim I was better than/equal to him. Let’s be real now.

#4 Don’t Send an Incomplete Idea

Duff ain't got time for this.

Duff ain’t got time for this.

Don’t claim to have a great idea for a novel–and then promise you’ll write it after they decide to represent you.  Have a query, and follow it up with a proposal (non-fiction) or a full manuscript (fiction.)

#5 Don’t Bitch Back



I’ll admit it. R.J’s had to restrain me from writing a nasty response to an agent before. (Once. And only because it was a really snotty rejection letter.) But mostly I keep in mind the golden, obvious, #1 rule– The agent doesn’t get paid unless they sign a contract with you AND sell the book. So if one of them, by the grace of god, decides to sit there–read your proposal and write up a five page response to it so that you can have a better shot at actually getting a rep? Kiss their feet, thank them for their time and be forever indebted to them for bringing you one repaired sentence closer to publishing your book than you were yesterday.

Alright. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I’m going to go cry over my proposal with a wine glass full of Propel Sport and revise, revise, revise….




12 thoughts on “Five Rules to Winning Over a Literary Agent

  1. Priscilla Rzezuski

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    Priscilla Rzezuski

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