Seven literary agents who will never represent you

1. Dinosaur Diana

Dinosaur Diana has owned her elite New York agency since before you were born. She drank with Hemingway and shot small furry animals with Faulkner. (Or was it the other way round?) She represents literary estates of three Nobel Prize winners and a dozen Pulitzers. She sits in her corner office reading the manuscripts her assistants printed out for her while they cry in the broom closet. She’ll consider new clients only if they’re recommended by someone she regularly eats lunch with. There’s no point in sending your query to her.

2. Snobbish Steve

Snobbish Steve is a savvy London agent with an Oxbridge degree who looks great in his tweed blazer. He claims he’s looking for the next big literary novel that captures the Zeitgeist of the broken capitalist system, but in fact, he wants a novel about a wealthy young college graduate alone and alienated in a big city, spilling his contempt and sarcasm over 500 pages because he can’t get laid. He won’t represent you because he only represents his Oxbridge chums.

3. Popular Polly

Popular Polly is a junior agent, but she’s a social media veteran pro. Her slush pile is 10 months deep, but she tweets a new #MSWL every time some hot fad captures her 3-year-old’s attention span. She still has a secret crush on Harry Potter. Her wishlist is loaded with accidental bestsellers and she sees Pitchwars as a popularity contest. She’s also written a cute YA novel or two and is represented by another Popular Polly. If she ever gets to your query, she’ll reject it because she “didn’t fall in love with it”.

4. Ghosting Gary

Ghosting Gary will immediately ask you for a full or, even better, he’ll solicit your work himself. He’ll have nothing but praise for your short prose and your opening chapters. Your themes and comps are right up his street. You’ll send him your full thinking it’s a sure thing. You won’t hear from him for the next six months. When you nudge him politely, he’ll tell you he was disappointed that the horse on p.276 was black instead of chestnut. When you assure him you can fix that and ask if it’s possible to R&R, he’ll ghost you.

5. Quirky Queenie

Quirky Queenie is all about indie authors, women’s horror and dark little magazines winning Pushcarts. She’s heavy on the eyeliner, Lovecraftian monsters and romantic poetry. She loves dark and scary fairy tales, strong female characters and unreliable narrators. Her query form will require you to answer all manner of weird questions. What song resembles the tone of your book? Do you have a moodboard or an artist whose work has the same feel? Who’s your favourite character and why? If your book was a flower, which flower it would be? It’ll take you three hours and a dozen WTFs to fill in the form. She’ll never respond.

6. Ideal Ian

Ideal Ian is your dream agent. He works for a small but reputable agency specialized in your genre. He represents the authors you want to become when you grow up. His client list and your bookshelf are practically identical. His wishlist tells you that he wants exactly what you have and that he would be the perfect agent to love, represent and sell your manuscript. He’s been closed to queries for the last three years.

7. Diverse Dolly

Diverse Dolly likes all things edgy: BIPOC writers, lgbtq+, #ownvoices, disabled, neurodiverse and historically underrepresented. She’s the epitome of political correctness. Her wishlist calls for non-European myths and legends, immigrant experience and intergenerational trauma. Her query form will ask you why you’re the best person to tell that story, to make sure it’s #authentic. She won’t respond to your query because she’s too busy representing the latest Nazi romance.

Images by studiogstock

Disclaimer: this is a hommage to a similar list I saw a few years ago. Unfortunately, I can’t find it. I compiled this one from my own querying experience.

White whale has landed

Those outside the querying trenches often mock those inside them for comparing the process of researching on-line, writing a letter and hitting “send” to the experience of sitting in a freezing hole in the ground while shells explode above your head. However, in my humble opinion, those who’d never tried to run the minefield of MSWL, died an agonizing death in no man’s land while waiting for requests, or felt the bayonet-in-the-guts pain of the full rejection have no right to express their opinion on the subject.

However, I’m not here to moan but to celebrate an extraordinary occurrence, the white whale of story writing: four days from the first word written to the story acceptance. Call it a wild fluke or karma or divine benevolence, but it was a ray of sunshine in my trench. Started the story on Friday, sold it on Monday. Admittedly, it is a very fast market and, also, I had a hunch that the story was right for them, but it’s still a miracle. What makes it even more important, on a personal level, is that the story was my reaction to the anxiety and heartbreak of the querying process.

I suppose it’s better to pour out your pain and sell it than to keep it in.

Anyways, Immortelle is coming soon. It’s dark, violent and crawling with zombies.

The Book

Let’s make this clear: The Book is not the first novel I’ve written nor it is the last, so all the drama connected with it is purely subjective. But it is my current project and it has taken me on a roller coaster ride of hope and disappointment of epic proportions (subjective, remember!).

I’ve finished the first draft of my manuscript in the summer of 2019. I’ve found some great beta readers (thanks, Scribophile) that helped me with the plot, characters and prose. I edited it and sent the first few queries in November and December. I had no luck with agents in that first round, so I went back to the manuscript, did a complete structural edit, rewrote some chapters and added new ones. I polished my query and synopsis. And started querying again.

In April, an agent saw my Twitter pitch and asked me for a full. In less than a month, I had an offer of representation.

And then… nothing.

Global pandemic struck and I think the agent just didn’t handle it very well. There were enthusiastic emails and chats about future plans, but those things never materialized. In the end, I got no agent and my manuscript got no attention and no opportunities to get published.

But the manuscript is still here, complete and polished. I just need to gather the courage to go back to querying. Wish me luck.

Look, I’ve made such a lovely mood board for The Book.