From Writers to Agents: A List of Dos and Don'ts!

My coworker, Alice Pope, has put together a list of requested “dos and don’ts” from writers to agents.  (There is also a similar post on dos and don’ts for editors.)  Definitely check out the lists and let your opinions fly on the comment boards.

See Alice’s CWIM blog here!

Here are some examples of requests from writers:

  • “Do tell us what we’re doing well.”
  • “Do tell us if you just arent excited about something we submit to you.”
  • “Do be timely, clear and honest with your submission policies.”

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2 thoughts on “From Writers to Agents: A List of Dos and Don'ts!

  1. Edward G. Talbot

    I’d only add one thing – to be very specific with submission guidelines. I’m not trying to make excuses here – if a writer spends enough time researching what is generally required from submissions, he/she can usually combine that with an agent’s specific guidelines and develop a good submission. But if the goal of the agent is to reduce the number of things they don’t want to see, then the more specific the better.

    In agent blogs, I’ve read complaints about certain things that are not proscribed in the submission guidelines and in fact other agents specifically ask for. For instance, it seems obvious to me as a writer that claiming my book would make a great action movie starring Brad Pitt is a dumb thing to do in a query. Yet a number of agents specifically mention in their guidelines that they ARE looking for works to sell as movies and writers should mention it. Same goes for comparing a book to bestselling authors. A lot of agents say do that under no circumstances. But a growing number of agents do want you to know where your book "fits", and that includes what existing author’s market you might be in. I’ve heard an argument that one can say that the work would appeal to fans of a certain author but not make direct comparisons. While I do understand the distinction, the fact remains that the situation is a long way from clear. If you don’t want these things to appear in queries, know that you need to mention that in your guidelines (and some agents do of course).

    Plowing through the slush pile is not a task I envy, although I can imagine that finding a true gem is very satisfying. The more specifics you have in your guidelines, the more likely you are to see at least small improvements in submission quality.

  2. Killer Kat

    Encouraging, compassionate and well written. However, fostering good will alone between writers and agents is not enough to break the cycle of fear many agents have about acquiring NEW or EXPERIMENTAL.

    The crippling conservatism with respect to what is touted as the NEXT BIG THING is disgusting.


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