All literary agents receive dozens of proposal each week. Some in the mail and some via email. Last week was a slow week, only 30 unsolicited proposals arrived. (Unsolicited means proposals that are not from our existing clients. We get a number of those each week too.) The variety can be rather astounding. We don’t mean to be mean about it, but sometimes you have to find the humor in these situations.
There are myriad of email submissions that simply ignore our posted guidelines regarding email submissions such as “Please do not copy and paste your entire manuscript into the body of your email.” Yes it has happened.
Despite saying we don’t represent poetry I once received a PDF attachment with 900 pages of poetry in it. The author felt it was so good I would ignore my stated preferences and make an exception.
Or the poor soul that failed to proofread their email before sending this sentence, “I would like to send you my quarry letter….”
Or this opening sentence, “I found your name on the inner net.”
Nor does it include those that find our name in a directory somewhere and just pick up the phone and call without doing their research. I once received a call that went something like this:
Agency: This is the Steve Laube Agency…
Caller: What kind of agency are you?
Agency: We are a literary agency.
Caller: What does that mean?
Agency: It means we represent books to publishers on behalf of our clients and manage our client’s careers.
Caller: Oh good. I do comic strips…and they are really unique… [caller's voice gets faster and louder as they talk]
Agency: Well, we don’t represent artists or comic strip artists.
Caller: But I’m a philosopher too! ….. [further explanation followed]
Agency: Well, we [caller interrupts]
Caller: And I’m also a musician with over 500 songs to my credit.
Agency: Unfortunately we do not represent musicians at this time.
Caller: But I was named Rock musician of the year…
Agency: We’re sorry but it does not appear that our agency would be a good fit for you.
Caller: You want to listen to my stuff for free on Myspace?
Agency: I don’t see how that would be a good use of our time.
Caller: Someday someone will discover it and make millions.
Agency: We wish you the best in all your endeavors…
Or the time we received a call from an aspiring author who was a psychic who had an “amazing” personal story to tell…oh, and by the way, they also have two novels done and five children’s books ready and waiting.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not complaining. What I’m trying to say is that the simple act of reading our blog and following an agency’s guidelines can make you like so much better than those who do not take that time. We’ve written about rejection many times and no agent takes the process lightly. But a little understanding and self education would make every writer’s experience while approaching an agent a little more tolerable.
(an earlier version of this post ran on January 6, 2010. The new picture above is not from my office!)