Please Follow the Directions

This morning I rejected three inquiries from people who wanted me to be their agent. They made my choices easy. None gave more than a hint of having read and followed the directions.

The literary agency’s website lists what we want to see from a potential client. It also spells out the elements of a book proposal. There’s a reason for that. Without a complete picture, we can’t correctly assess a project’s potential — and neither can a publisher’s acquisitions editor.

I recently attended the convention of a literary group. In five years with them, I’ve gotten to know the members. Some I can count on to do the right thing. I enjoy being around them and try to help them if I can. Others think they deserve special privileges. I try to be polite, but …

I reflected on that experience as I reviewed this morning’s e-mails.

● The first writer concluded her query by asking if I’d like to review her full manuscript. (Nope. If I were interested, I’d like to study her proposal.)

● The next (a retired CIA agent working on a spy novel) sent his resume in the hope I’d take him on as a client. (I told him to wait until he’d finished his novel, then send a proposal.)

● The third, who’d written a combination memoir/devotional, sent three attachments: a table of contents, three chapters, and a sample devotion. All important elements, but lacking key ingredients of a full proposal.

Maybe they were fantastic potential clients — just too new to writing to know the expectations. So in my responses, I tried to educate them. But I’ll choose to work with writers who come across as serious professionals.

Andy Scheer, editor-in-chief for the Christian Writers Guild, also serves as a freelance book editor and an agent with Hartline Literary.

Photo Credit: © Igor Mojzes –


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