How Not to Find A Literary Agent for Your Book

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I was a teenager when I received what appeared to be a positive reply from a literary agency. Back then, that felt like an incredible achievement. The name of the agency escapes me but I’m pretty sure they’re out of business by now.

The agent thought my book was superb and was ready to represent me but first I would need to get my book typed out on a computer instead of a typewriter, which I’d used back then.


She offered this service at $2 per page and a representation fee of $500. The manuscript was roughly two hundred pages. When you add that to the $500 representation fee; I had to pay her a total of $900 to become my agent.

$900 wasn’t exactly small change but I didn’t see that as a problem at all. I didn’t have a cent to my name but my parents had lots of cents to theirs. I marched into my father’s room and gave him the bill. He stared at the letter for about ten minutes before telling me firmly he was not going to pay for it. He thought it was strange that I was being charged for representation.

I concluded my father was standing in the way of my dreams. As only a teenager could, I yelled, I threw tantrums, I threatened suicide and patricide, I threatened to run away, I threatened to start smoking and drinking but none of the threats worked.

I spent every day for the next year reading the letter and trying to think of ways to raise $900. Eventually, I realised short of robbing a bank, there was no way I could raise the money. I gave up, filed the letter away and returned to my writing though I didn’t speak to my father for quite a while afterwards.

Fast-forward to ten years later, I discovered the manuscript somewhere at the bottom of all my stuff. As I turned over the pages in nostalgia, I realised that my father had been right to turn me down. The manuscript was full of childish ramblings that required a lot of editing work, which the literary agency hadn’t even offered. If I’d wired the $900, it’s likely I never would have heard from them again or they would have found a way to continue milking me (well, my father).

It’s so easy for a desperate author to be taken for a ride but now that technology has advanced considerably, it’s easy to research an agent if you think they’re shady thereby saving yourself thousands of dollars, financially and emotionally. Google is your best friend in this case. Grab a copy of Writer’s Market if required.

Writers market 2018

I also recommend attending writer’s conferences. This is one of the best ways to connect with agents. If you want to check out an agent, you can also take a look at SFWA.

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