2010 GLA Excerpt: How NOT To Get an Agent

Publish date:

The 2010 Guide to Literary Agents arrives in-house within one week and, needless to say, I am excited to see it in print. I mean - just look at the book. It looks like a delicious s'more. That is - a delicious s'more filled with tons of agent info and conference info and articles. I suppose that's just the marshmallow filling.

The book will be in stores in mid to late August. Keep in mind that you can pre-order now through F+W Media. In the meantime, I'm going to excerpt some articles to give writers a little taste of what articles are included to help scribes on their journey. The following excerpt below is from Jean Daigneau, who is a former regional SCBWI advisor. Her article is full of things NOT to do if you want to snag an agent.

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Mistake No. 1: Gimmicks, Gimmicks and More Gimmicks

Cute sells. Think Beanie Babies and dyed baby chicks. (Okay, you probably weren't even born when people could buy baby chicks in a rainbow of colors, but they were cute.) So enhancing your manuscript with clip art will certainly add an interesting element. Or consider using colored stationery or perhaps an unusual font. Something like Bradley Hand ITC is definitely eye-catching. Remember, it's all about making it to the top of the slush pile, or at least getting an agent's attention.

Besides, agents are people driven by the same human emotions as the rest of us - mostly greed. What agent in his or her right mind would turn down chocolate? Or football tickets? Or cash? Okay, I'm just kidding about the cash, but don't think it can't work.

Anything that makes your submission stand out is worth trying. Steven Chudney, principal of the Steven Chudney Agency, will attest to that fact. "Twice I've received 8 by 10 glossies from prospective clients," he said. "That certainly told me a lot about their writing and them." See? From the hundreds of submittals he's received, which ones does he remember? The two authors who sent glossies. I told you gimmicks work.

Mistake No. 2: No Time to be Humble

One thing most successful people have is confidence. What better way to show it than by letting an agent know that your spouse, best friend, grandchildren, or fellow inmates all love your story? Any agent will be thrilled to know that you're the next Dr. Seuss, especially when you tell her that, while your manuscript may seem very similar to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it's actually much better. So remember, you can't say enough about what a great writer you are. That agent will be so impressed with you she'll probably mention your approach during a conference presentation - as one of the most unforgettable she's encountered.

Mistake No. 3: Watts a Few Typos Among Friends?

Prior to submitting to an agent, you've no doubt read your manuscript until you could almost recite it verbatim. Why worry then about those last few thousand words you just revised? That's what spelling and grammar check tools are for. Sew watts the wurst that mite hap pen if ewe have knot red yore man yew script won Moor thyme? If an agent can't overlook a few mistakes, he's probably not very flexible or easy to get along with. Who wants to work with someone like that?

Besides, isn't that an agent's job – to take an unpolished manuscript and turn it into a best seller? Your job is to write. You may as well leave the editing to the experts.

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