So, you’ve written, proofread, edited, and polished your novel until it shines like a new penny (if you Haven’t you need to back up and check out some of these resources right here, and maybe even the blog page overall)…
You’re ready for publication, you think, and now you need to track down and net a literary agent (they’re surprisingly flighty in the wild!).
You’d think that it’s all about the quality of your manuscript, right? Well, not really. The truth is there are things you can do and say that will put an agent or acquisition editor off ever reading your manuscript. Things like, oh I don’t know, cornering them for a chat in the bathroom…
While some of this is pretty obvious, there are factors that many budding authors don’t consider, and of course view points they don’t get.
With that in mind; here are some of the worst things you can say to Literary Agent or Acquisitions Editor (and why they they’re so off-putting)…
“I have a few chapters/a rough draft…”
Unless you’re hiring a freelance editor (like me) your editor/agent only makes money when you do. If your book is unfinished, or so rough as to require multiple drafts before it can hit the press they’re going to pass. This isn’t malice, or laziness; these are busy people who simply do not have the time to babysit new authors. Do as much work as you possibly can before you even consider sending your manuscript to an agent or editor, and they’ll be more likely to give you a helping hand where needed.
Editors and Agents are here to sell your book, not do your job for you.
“My Mother Loves It”
They don’t care. No-one does.
If this is the most interesting thing you have to say about a manuscript you’ve potentially spent years on this is a bad sign. Of course it may be true… but that’s not the point; never lead with this.
“My book is for everyone…”
No it’s not.
No-one can please all potential readers; be honest about your target audience and how wide the appeal of your novel is likely to be. An agent will read your manuscript with the question of who they can sell it to foremost in their mind. If you’re not honest with them from the start they’ll see trouble a head and opt for an easier and more realistic client.
“I know this isn’t your area, but…”
Agents and publishers have specialisations for a reason; they know how to sell certain types of fiction or non-fiction, and they know what makes it sell. You approaching an Agent or Publisher who specialises in Fantasy with a self-help Yoga manual is the equivalent of asking a boxer to teach you how to fence.
Furthermore, it implies that you either did not read their brief (and thus are spamming agents), or disregarded it (which is just bad manners).
“I’m the next X, Y, or Z”
If you’re claiming to be the next overnight sensation, or (better/worse yet) serial best seller you’re either going to set up expectations that are hard to meet, or you’re going to make the agent in question roll their eyes so hard they go blind. Love your writing, love yourself, and highlight what you do well, but don’t try to deify yourself before you’ve even hit the press.
Agents need to know they can make suggestions without fighting their clients every step of the way over something as minor, for example, as font and text size.
“I’ve published 5 books!”
Unless you have sold thousands of copies of each book, or over five thousand copies of one, you don’t need to bring this up. The truth is that most self-publish books rarely sell over two hundred copies, and so this is not a comforting thought; big publishing houses need you to sell a good quantity of books before you even cover their costs.
Focus on what you can do to help them sell this book and they’ll feel more comfortable in taking a chance on you!
If you properly prepare your manuscript and don’t say any of these things you’ll have a much easier time when it comes to finding an agent.