Thursday, December 21, 2006

A letter I got today about literary agents

Just received the following email, with the subject line "My Friend is an excellent Science Fiction, Military, And "What If" Writer."
Dear Mr. Sawyer,

I have a Writer Friend who has a great imagination and is an excellent Writer! We met at our Writer's group and are "Writer Friends." Do you know of an agent that accepts stories like his? He is very prolific and is always researching, and finding ideas. I am a Writer too, but what I do is Romantic, Family History, Poetry and short stories. Here is a sample of my friend's work [Word file attached]. Would you let me know.

And here's my reply:
My lawyer has advised me not to read the work of beginning writers who approach me over the Internet. Sadly, we live in a very litigious world, and the risk is too great that someday someone will claim that something I independently created was influenced by or based on some unpublished work I'd supposedly seen online. And so I have to politely decline to look at the work you want me to read; I hope you'll understand.

That said, there's information on finding agents on my web site:

Also, I have to say you're going about this backwards. You, or your friend, should be reading widely in the field you want to publish in, and identifying which authors are writing similar material, and then finding out who their agents are. Don't ask others to do your homework for you; your friend needs to know the field well enough to figure out who the appropriate agents to approach are. Now, if you want to come back to me with a question such as, "My friend writes books similar to those of XXXX and YYYY, and I was wondering if you could tell me who their agents are?," I'd be glad to oblige if I happen to have the answer.

Best of luck.



At December 21, 2006 11:17 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

And here's the kicker: the response I mailed to this person bounced back with a note saying that my email address wasn't on the white list for her spam filter ...

At December 22, 2006 3:38 AM , Anonymous Jim Shannon said...

LOL! ! !

I have to give my head a shake. You know Rob I've also been hearing the axiom, "trust the slush." The big 3 still accept unsolicited manuscripts.

SF signal has a related story in Wednesdays "Tidbits" from a survey Tobias Bucklell recently did where he polled various authors the question: "How many novels did you write before selling one." I think the average was 3 novels but very few beginner writers sold their first novel on the first try.

Here's the link to the story. Your article on "The 8 thins writers should know," is featured there as well.

Heres the link to Buckells survey:

At December 22, 2006 8:08 AM , Blogger Michael A. Burstein said...

"my email address wasn't on the white list"


Seriously, I've added a link to your page on agents from my blog. It's a good reference for people.

At December 22, 2006 8:39 AM , Anonymous don said...

You should start a "Hey Rob" column. But one where you don't give any advise at all. Other than the unbelievably polite way you tell people to ". . . get off their lazy asses and do things for themselves. You want to play the game, then learn the rules!" Wow.

I wonder if a society could survive where one person in each field actually did everything related to that field and everyone else lived vicariously through them?



PS; I hope all is well and a very Merry Christmas to you.

At December 22, 2006 9:50 PM , Blogger Shannon said...

This is really funny, but it makes me realize how far I've come as a writer seeking publication. Even understanding the phrase "know how to do your homework" takes a while to really get. I kind of feel bad for the guy. Which is, I suppose, why successful writers, like yourself, even take the time to offer advice in the first place.

Since this is my first post on your blog, let me just take the time to say how much I enjoyed Calculating God. Hilarious, witty and thought-provoking! Thanks for the great read.

At December 22, 2006 9:55 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Thanks, Shannon -- and welcome to my blog!



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