As a writer seeking representation, I have paid much attention to agents’ advice as to how I should conduct myself.
I am well aware of the heinous sins that the aspiring author must not commit. Thou shalt not, for example, submit sample chapters from the beginning, middle and end of your novel, typed in illegible, flouncy font, with a covering letter introducing your book as the next best thing since Fifty Shades, all wrapped in pink ribbon with a Ferrero Rocher bouquet thrown in for good measure.
Oh yes, there are many horror stories with which the raconteur agent may entertain us.
But, you know what? It isn’t all one-way traffic. There are some things agents do that also gall and frustrate. At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, here are my top ten commandments for agents.
- Thou shalt not demand exclusive submissions.
- Thou shalt not ask for a synopsis that is significantly longer, or shorter, than the standard one page.
- Thou shalt not require me to ‘flatter’ thee in my covering letter.
- Thou shalt not insist the covering letter be the most important part of the submission.
- Thou shalt not promise a response time that thou simply canst not honour.
- Thou shalt not spend all thy time on Twitter instead of reading my manuscript.
- Thou shalt not positively ask me to chase thee if I haven’t heard for a while and yet still fall silent.
- Thou shalt not send out a rejection letter that has grammatical and punctuation errors.
- Thou shalt not ask to see the full manuscript just before giving up being an agent.
- Thou shalt not attend a pitch-to-agent event only to pitch to the audience thine existing clients’ publications.
Disclaimer: most agents are passionate, dedicated people whose work is a labour of love. They appreciate that, no matter what they might think of the writing, a professionally presented submission deserves their respect and courtesy. Those pesky manuscripts festering on the slush pile, are, after all, an agent’s bread and butter.
Now then. Where did I put the chocolates…