Who loves literary agents?

Which is the most disliked profession? For the public,  it’s surely the tax inspector. For writers who can’t get representation, it must be the literary agent. I’ve long since lost count of the scathing comments I’ve heard and read about agents. They’re rude, arrogant, aloof, uncommunicative, uncaring etc. etc.

Okay, maybe some are – and there’s no doubt that many agencies lack the communication skills of the authors they reject. For instance, in this era of instant multiple emails and texts, there’s no excuse for telling authors who submit their cherished work that they can expect to hear sweet FA unless the agent is interested.

That apart, I’m largely on the side of the agents. They have their hands full as they struggle to adjust to the ebook revolution that is causing an upheaval in their business and in their lives. They now have to negotiate with publishers who have fewer retail outlets in which to place their books and far smaller marketing budgets to support their authors. Agents, by and large, love their work and put their hearts into it but, right now, theirs can’t be the easiest profession to be in and the openings they can offer to new writers are probably as limited as they’ve ever been.

I say this though I failed to find an agent for my novel, The Girl with the Julia Roberts Smile, which will now be epublished in a couple of months. Agreed, I could have tried harder. I only approached 12-15 agents, so maybe my experience of them isn’t typical. But, having come very close to being taken on by one agent for whom I have genuine praise (she is a delightful person and read my whole novel), I gave up trying because, rightly or wrongly, I reckoned I knew why she turned me down. Agents make no secret of the fact that they want to build a career with their new authors and I might have been the UK’s oldest debut novelist if I had been published. I’m healthy and a free spirit and I expect to go on writing for a long, long time (I’m already well through my second novel and planning the third) but that counts for nothing if it doesn’t fit an agent’s mould. Apart from which, as a journalist, I can’t help thinking with regret of the fantastic media coverage a novel by the UK’s oldest debut author could have attracted!

Now that I’m getting deeply into Twitter, I initially followed about 20 agents, which I’ve now reduced to four – Carole Blake, Janet Reid, Carly Watters and Kate McKean. They didn’t follow me back, of course, but why would they? I simply wanted to see if they’re normal human beings and if I could pick up some snippets of valuable info. They are and I can, so I’ll continue to follow them and enjoy the experience.

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About Richard Louden

Maybe it was because languages were my thing but I loved writing at school and I've loved it ever since. Obviously, I hope others will enjoy reading what I write but, now that I am turning my hand to novels, what matters most to me is to write what, as a reader, I would like to read. As a journalist with UK papers, I've written widely on education, business, sport and law. In the creative writing field, I've written the scripts of two TV dramas (BBC and ITV), contributed sketches to TV and radio comedy shows and had short stories published in national anthologies. That doesn’t make me a novelist but I hope it gives me a push in the right direction.

Posted on July 10, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Pretty accurate appraisal in my view, looking for an agent is a bit of a matchmaking game in my humble opinion and I have to admit also to not trying very hard (only approached 3 in fact) and also followed a few to see if they offer any interesting advice.

    Unlike you I come with very little reputation or credibility, which is partly what prompted me to write a blog, its a calling card for the auto-didact, the one with a bit of life experience and enthusiasm for their chosen activities, but no literary trail to follow. I have written one novel and onto the second and I know that first was the great learning curve of a novel. For now I’m just keeping on writing and learning and improving and watching my followers grow, and sharing insights, it may not pay, but its extremely satisying and liberating.

  2. Why don’t you try going to the YORK WRITERS FESTIVAL this september…google it.
    You spend three days and get tons of advice and meet like minded people plus and more to the point:
    you have 3 one to one’s with literary agents who have already been sent your work and who will then tell you face to face what they think. ( two of whom i twittered responded as i said that i was attending. Carol Blake is on the list there I believe.)
    This same system applies to Book Doctors.

    i attended two years ago, changed the story dramatically, got interest from one agent at the time and am seeing three more this Sept.
    There might still be a place….you should try to get there it is great fun and very instructive.

    • Hi Marella

      I can’t thank you enough for taking so much trouble to comment on two of my blogs. It’s very kind of you. I’ll shortly reply to your comments on my blogsite but, in the meantime, I’m very grateful for your interest.

      Best regards,

      Richard Louden

    • This sounds a great idea, Marella, and it would be a valuable experience to catch up with Carole Blake, whom I follow on Twitter. The problem is that I’m not sure if I can make the dates. More importantly, I’ve signed up with an epublisher to issue my novel as an ebook, so I’ve probably shot myself in the foot in terms of attracting an agent or traditional publisher.

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