Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Not to Get an Agent

No one will deny it’s tough to get an agent. There are tons of aspiring authors out there, and a comparatively small number of agents. Demand greatly exceeds supply. And it doesn’t help that agents are extraordinarily busy people. It’s not uncommon for a manuscript or query letter to sit around for weeks, even months, before an agent gets around to looking at it. Is it any wonder that we writers sometimes feel a bit desperate to have our manuscripts seen?

Yes, writers sometimes resort to some rather extreme methods to get agents to take a look at their work. Here are a couple of bad stories I’ve heard:

An agent was staying at a hotel for a multi-day writers’ conference. One evening, rather late, there was a knock on his hotel room door. He answered it to find a woman standing in the hall, manuscript in hand, who proceeded to pitch her book to him. Curious as to how she knew which room he was in, he coaxed from her the story: she had convinced the front desk to give her his room number by calling them up, pretending to be a relative of his, and claiming she needed to speak with him immediately because there had been a dire family emergency. Once she had his room number, she was free to show up at his door.

Another agent was in the restroom at a writers’ conference when a hand suddenly came over the top of the stall door, holding a manuscript. That’s right—someone had followed her into the ladies’ room and attempted to give her their manuscript while she was on the toilet.

Oh dear. Please let such stories serve as a reminder—always strive to be professional in your dealings with agents. Going to extremes to get an agent to read your manuscript isn’t going to impress them. It’s going to amuse, annoy, vex, or creep them out. They might even call the police. At any rate, it’s sure to convince them that you are absolutely, positively not someone they want to work with. Writing is like any other profession—respectfulness, reasonableness, and common courtesy are much appreciated.

What are the worst stories you’ve heard when it comes to approaching agents?

-Dawn Lairamore

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc


  1. I know an agent who was being picked up from the airport. The limo driver (who happened to be a writer) found out he was an agent, stopped in the middle of nowhere in a bad area, and asked him to take a look at his MS! Can you imagine? I'd be terrified. Needless to say, the agent said yes! ;)

  2. I try to stalk as little as possible, probably missing normal opportunities to make contacts because I don't want to bother people. So the person who pretended to be a relative just horrifies me.

  3. I can think of some gushy emails I sent that still make me blush. The Internet makes rash communication easy. Try to rein yourself in!!

  4. Wait. So literary agents are human beings? Who'd a thunk it?

  5. Ha! If it even feels even vaguely creepy - as in any other human being would run in the opposite direction if you approached them in that manner: Don't. Do. It.

  6. I had heard of the bathroom stalker before. So when I was at a conference and innocently ran into the agent (I had just pitched to at the pitching session), I froze. If I could have become the stall, I would have. I recovered with some small talk but bathrooms are horrible horrible no good places for chit chat. Awkward.

  7. Yeah, you're right. We do have to be careful about being too aggressive.

  8. Yeah, sometimes it's hard to know where to draw the line. Early on, I was very timid with agents. Probably a little too timid, like the time an agent at a writers' conference came and stood next to me in the back of the room during another speaker's presentation because there were no available chairs. My initial thought was that I should move over and give him some space so he wouldn't think I was being stalkerish. Lol--*he* was the one who had come over and stood next to me :) But, yes, Caroline's right, other times you really have to rein yourself in.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!