Monday, February 11, 2013

NINJA STUFF: How (NOT) to Make a Lasting Impression on a Literary Agent

Hello there, Esteemed Reader! The image to the left has nothing to do with today's article. Instead, it's a hint, because this week's writer to face the 7 Questions is one of my childhood heroes and an absolute giant of middle grade literature. If the names Omri, Little Bear,  and Boone mean anything to you, you definitely want to keep an eye on the blog this week:)


What follows is a comedic piece. As I routinely post genuine advice from publishing professionals, I wanted to mention up front that this article is something I wrote to amuse myself based on behavioral trends I've noticed in way too many newbie writers at conferences. If you actually follow any of the advice that follows, you're an idiot, possibly a terrible person, and you will likely not gain representation by a literary agent

As every writer knows, one of the best ways to meet agents and convince them of your superiority as a future literary giant is to hunt them--I mean meet them, at writers conferences. But it’s tricky going at best. There all these other no-talent writers who show up to conferences and want equal time with my agent! So how can great writers like me make themselves stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression?

I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I’ll share with you the masterful strategy I recently employed when meeting a woman I'll refer to here only as Dream Agent. I won’t tell you her real name because she’s my agent! Mine! And now that she has me, she won’t want you anyway. Here’s how it went down:

9:05 am 

I've been waiting in the parking lot since 6 am and am beginning to lose hope when at last I see Dream Agent approaching.  “Hello, Dream Agent!” I scream running up to her. I give her a bouquet of a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, and a Tupperware container of eggs and bacon I made at 5 am in case she hasn't had breakfast. 

“Do I know you?” she asks. 

“We've never met, but fate has brought us together,” I say. “You may know me better as Kittenguts739.” 

I can tell from her expression Dream Agent recognizes me. “ You've been leaving 10 comments a day at my blog for the past three months.” She noticed! 

I spread my arms to embrace her. Dream Agent seems a little shy and takes a step back, but she can’t get away easily holding the roses and chocolates, so I hug her close. And then we go into the conference together.

11:00 am  

Dream Agent gives a talk on The Dreaded Synopsis. I sit near the front and yell out things like “that’s so true!” and “Amen sister!” to enhance her presentation. 

Later, I notice two writers whispering to each other, so I stand up and yell, “Would you please shut up! Dream Agent is pontificating and you’re ruining it!” Dream Agent doesn't say so, but I’m pretty sure she appreciates my use of the word “pontificating.”  

When she opens up for questions, I raise my hand. After all other questions have been answered, she calls on me and I ask, “How can I be a brilliant, elegant, not to mention effervescently beautiful, publishing professional like you?” 

Call me a kiss up if you will, but Dream Agent is too stunned to speak.

3:00 pm 

Finally, it’s time for my pitch session with Dream Agent. I want to grab her attention right away, so I tell her I've read the work of her clients and they are talent-less hacks compared to me! That gets her excited, I can tell. “My book is what would happen if Stephen King and J.K. Rowling had a baby and that baby outsold all  their books combined!” 

“What’s it’s about?” Good. I've intrigued her. 

The Erotic Journey of Sheldon the Vampire, Student of Hogweird School of Magic is book one in the Effervescent Illumination Saga, which spans 57 books for children total. It's written in all caps to help readers with poor eyesight and I've not used a single punctuation mark so readers will know I’m a writer who breaks convention.  It contains certain facts about alien abduction and the Kennedy Assassination I can’t discuss here, but you’ll read about them.” 

Dream Agent asks me to summarize the work, but that’s silly. If I could tell Sheldon’s inspiring story in a summary, I would hardly have written 312,000 words. So I pull my manuscript from my bag and begin reading it to her. 

Alas, our session is over before I finish page four, but I hang around afterwards and cough things like “hack!” and “you suck” during other writer’s pitch sessions.

5:07 pm 

Dream Agent goes into the bathroom and boy is she surprised by my initiative when my head pops up over the side of the next stall. “Hello, Dream Agent! Since we’re alone in here, would you like to continue our erotic journey together?” 


“Get out of here!” Dream Agent yells and for the first time, I sense I may have made a misstep. 

Well, even Hemingway made a few of those, and I’m a waaaayyyy better writer than he was (probably why he killed himself). I step down off the toilet and am leaving the restroom, when I spot Dream Agent’s canvas bag beside the sink. 

I open it up to slip in my manuscript, a little something for the plane ride home, but it won’t fit with the other three manuscripts already in there. Dream Agent won’t be needing those now that she has me, so I throw them in the trash and cover them with paper towels. 

Publishing is a dog eat dog business and you can’t make an erotic children’s novel without breaking a few eggs.

6:10 pm 

During the Chat-with-a-Professional sessions, I make sure to sit at Dream Agent’s table and talk over the other writers. Even so, I can feel her interest waning.  I’m losing her! 

Clearly, I need to make her envision what a joy it would be to have me for a client, so I break out the big guns: copies of photos I pulled from her Facebook page into which I have Photo-shopped myself.  

“Here’s me with you and your husband at the park,” I say. “And here’s me petting your dog. Oh, what a wonderful client I am. And here’s me outside your house. Is this one real or Photo-shopped?  I’ll never tell. Of course, after we publish the Effervescent Illumination Saga, I’ll be standing outside your mansion!”  

At this point, Dream Agent excuses herself from the conference. I’m uncertain how to interpret this, so I follow her.

6:23 pm 

Dream Agent runs fast, but I’m faster.  

I catch up to her in the parking lot and this is the moment of truth. Sheldon the Vampire’s entire erotic journey hangs in the balance! 

I go for broke: 

“All my life I had to fight!” I shout, sobbing. "They all said I was crazy! No one would want to publish a sexually explicit children’s story, they said. Every agent and editor in New York has turned me down. I've pasted their rejection letters on every surface of my writing shack. 

"But I know you’re different, Dream Agent. And you’re going to make every bad thing that ever happened to me okay. I'm not a failure! I'm not insane. And we’ll show them! We’ll show them all!” I wipe my eyes. “So what do you say, Dream Agent?” 

She nods, her eyes wide, and takes several steps backward, so I know I've impressed her. “I’ll let you know,” she says. 

“I look forward to hearing from you,” I say. “Thank you for your time and your consideration.” 

Nailed it! I was so glad to end on a professional note.

I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m pretty confident in my chances and I've been sending Dream Agent 35 emails a day ever since to make sure she doesn't forget me. Just this afternoon, I got a package from her agency’s legal department. This could be it! 

Best of luck with your own agent hunting and Sheldon and I will see you from the top of the best-sellers list!


  1. I'm so reporting you to the Pitch Police. That was MY manuscript you threw in the trash! And just so you know, I've already set up my tent in Dream Agent's yard. I'm jacking her Wi-fi to finish my twenty-five book series on SIDEWALKS OF THE WORLD.

    There is no room for your thoughtless stalking in my conference. Yeah. So go home and take up tatting, 'cause we writers gotta write.

    (I've been waiting five years for a notification that they want my masterpiece. They must be completely backed up down there. Think they'd give me a job tossing stuff in the garbage?)

  2. Reading this makes me so happy to be a writer and not an agent. Scary! ;)


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