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Unsolicited Advice for Agents, Celebrity Exes and Fellow Upcoming Writers

Unsolicited Advice for Literary Agents:

  1. Reply to submissions, even if it's to say no. How much time does it really take to send a form email? People are delivering their hearts and dreams to your inbox, that's the business you're in. Acknowledgement of any sort goes a long way.

  2. If you say on your site that you reply to submissions, you'd better reply to them. If you say you'll reply and then don't, it feels like a snub and you cause writers pain. If you really can't be bothered to reply to stuff you're not interested in, change the wording on your site and just say so. Otherwise it's lazy and mendacious, and as a professional you should know better. Stick to your promises and timetables, behave with honour. Be kind, as they say.

  3. Consider being even more explicit in your presentation: you are probably looking exclusively for a set range of product, essentially a shopping list provided by big corporate publishers. You will not consider projects not on that list. We'd all like to feel we're part of a marvellous community that lives and breathes the wonder of books but it is not always fair to spin that fantasy to wannabes on social media or websites. Reality is easier to deal with, and prepare for, than fiction.

Unsolicited Advice for Celebrities Considering a Memoir:

  1. If you plan to write a memoir featuring the personal lives of ex-wives and partners, it is polite and customary to warn your ex-loves before publication, or even run it by them before your version of their past is put on sale.

  2. Using made-up names for ex-wives and partners, and then announcing in your book that this is a made-up name, is not a solid anonymity-protection strategy in this day and age. If a simple Google of your name reveals their real name too then your ploy looks somewhat dodgy, no matter how much naive innocence you may claim.

  3. The very act of using a fake name for an ex-partner in a memoir is a sign that you know you're up to no good. If you want to blur reality may I suggest trying your hand at a novel?

  4. If in any doubt about memoir etiquette, please refer to this excellent summary by Mary Karr.

Unsolicited Advice for Upcoming Writers:

  1. Educate yourself fully about all aspects of publishing and don't believe everything they tell you. There are many ways to get published and / or get your work out there. Open your mind. Don't be a snob. Agents and big publishers are not necessarily the answer. The future looks different.

  2. Write what you want and believe in it.

  3. Stop waiting for a pat on the head.

  4. Categories and genre are key. If what you've written falls outside norms, widen your horizons and consider self-publishing. Accept the reality of the situation. Your finely-wrought lacework will not persuade ball-bearing salesmen to alter their trade.

  5. Technology has changed everything. Take as much of the work of getting your book published onto your own shoulders as you can. Remove intermediaries. Be the entrepreneur of your work. Stop being a wallflower. Hustle bustle whether or not you like it to get your vision out there. Widen your networks. Own your product as far as you are able.

  6. Remember that it's the ones who don't give up that get published.

  7. Keep ploughing on.


Previous: Five Lessons That Helped Me Get Published Read my rejection odyssey from the start here.

Read other things here.

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Julie Kleeman
Julie Kleeman

Good to know that the post is getting about. This is great!


My Rejections
My Rejections

A literary agent has written in with an excellent point:

"I agree with almost all of this but can I add one plea for authors on behalf of literary agents? If an agent's website says they don't represent a particular kind of book and you have written a book in that genre then please don't send it! I can't stand fantasy novels, for example, and therefore don't represent them, but still receive a surprisingly large number. I imagine your submission letter got to the point very rapidly, but not everyone's does, and it can wind up being a big waste of time..."


Julie Kleeman
Julie Kleeman

I love this so much. Thank you :-)

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