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Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make Trying To Get Agents

All About Agents

Agents are always in every writer’s sights. With a new year beckoning, NOW is a great time to think about your submissions strategy. But whether you’re a novelist or a screenwriter, do make sure you avoid these epic clangers!

1) Not Following The Submissions Guidelines

First up, the obvious one. I know I always bang on (!) about following submission guidelines, but this is because writers STILL don’t do this!

NEWSFLASH: all legitimate agents will have their submission guidelines listed on their websites. Before you submit ANYTHING, look at their websites and find out what they are. (You should be doing your due diligence, as per point 2 on this list anyway).

By the way, it should be noted most submissions are done ONLINE now. Many agents have fancy submissions portals. Familiarise yourself with these portals ahead of the game. This way you don’t make epic mistakes and end up having to phone the agency in a panic!

Oh and while you’re doing all this, don’t forget to name your files properly.

2) Not Sending The RIGHT Stuff …

You want to send a script, a one page pitch/synopsis, a good cover email. THAT IS GENERALLY IT.

Like point 1 on this list, only ever include other stuff if it is expressly asked for in the submission guidelines. I cannot stress this enough. Do not send Spotify playlists or CDs. DO NOT send tea bags, sweets, or a plastic trash can.

3) … To The RIGHT People

Also, agents don’t just want any old client or script. They want a client they can invest their time in to help develop their career. See the difference?

So, agents will want clients who write the kinds of stories, themes, genres, subject matter, styles etc, they feel passionate about, too. That’s why it’s pointless sending your great comedic writing to agents who specialise in Horror. Or your brilliant crime fiction novel to agents who prefer non-fiction and memoir.

Sound obvious? That’s because it IS. But writers send their brilliant writing to the WRONG agents all the time … Then wonder why they fail to get any kind of traction. The good news is, it’s easier than EVER to find who the ‘right people’ are for your style of writing and/or career ambitions.

So, get on social media and search out those agents who tweet about the books, TV shows and movies they like.

Make sure you go to agent panels at events like London Screenwriters Festival or London Book Fair.

Grab a copy of the Writers & Artistes Yearbook and check out sites like Lit Rejections. Do your research!

4) Being Obnoxious

‘Being obnoxious’ can be up to interpretation, it’s true. However Agents all have horror stories about obnoxious potential clients. One of the most oft-hit articles on this site is the late, great Carole Blake’s from Blake Friedmann, where she details 29 Ways Not To Submit To An Agent. Don’t do any of those things and you should be fine.

Don’t mistake ‘being obnoxious’ with following up. Following up on your submission is absolutely allowed. But you probably do want to wait to between 6-8 weeks MINIMUM. Don’t follow up too fast, because that is obnoxious!

5) Believing Rejection = No More Contact, EVER!

Often writers get rejected by agents, then think they can NEVER darken those doors again. This is absolutely, 100% incorrect. In a business that is all about relationships, getting a read counts. If an agent responds to you with some feedback, however brief, chalk that up as a WIN. The agent was interested in your project *more* than the average one in the pile.

So respond, thank them and ask if you may send another script. They may say no, but in which case you have not lost anything. But if they say yes? You still have everything to play for. MORE: Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Rejection

Good Luck!

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3 thoughts on “Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make Trying To Get Agents”

  1. Totally agree… expect on point 2: I did once send everything asked for with a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates ‘to help with the read’. She did come back to me really quickly – it was still a no, but she did come back to me, lol (I subsequently signed with another agent a month later, and I’m still with her 10 years on)

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