Finding an agent is an important part of the writing process. Well, at least if you plan on pursuing publication. Not that I'm saying you can't be published without an agent, because you can. However, finding an agent, for many of us, is a must.
An agent is someone who is there for you during the good times and bad. She will hold your hand when you're ready to cry and be the bad guy, so you, the author, will shine. More importantly, an agent acts as a potter who molds and shapes the most important piece of pottery: your career.
When we unagented, unpublished, aspiring authors have a chance to find out what agents hate, you better believe we listen. And listen well, because I know, personally, I don't want to be rejected for a simple mistake that could have been easily corrected.
The agents have weighed in on, well, what they hate. So listen up! This might be your only chance to hear what all those agents we've all been querying to absolutely hate.
Below, I've posted some of my favorite "agent dislikes". Please visit Writer's Digest for more of "What Agents Hate".
What Agents Hate
by Chuck Sambuchino
Literary Reps vent about their chapter one turn-offs.
Ask any literary agent what they’re looking for in a novel’s first chapter and they’ll all say the same thing:“Good writing that hooks me in.” Agents appreciate the same elements of good writing that readers do. They want action; they want compelling characters and a reason to read on; they want to feel an immediate connection with your writing.But what about all those things they don’t want to see? Obvious mistakes such as grammatical errors and awkward writing aside, writers need to be conscious of Chapter 1 clichés and typical agent pet peeves—either of which can get a rejection letter sent your way. Here, dozens of established literary agents vent about everything they can’t stand to see in your all-important first chapter.
“I dislike endless ‘laundry list’ character descriptions. For example: ‘She
had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets
past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped
face. Her azure dress—with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves—sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah, blah.’ Who cares! Work it into the story.”
—Laurie McLean, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents
“In romance, I can’t stand this scenario: A woman is awakened to find a
strange man in her bedroom—and then automatically finds him attractive. I’m
sorry, but if I awoke to a strange man in my bedroom, I’d be reaching for a
weapon—not admiring the view.”
—Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency
VOICE AND POINT OF VIEW
“Avoid the opening line: ‘My name is … .’ ”
—Michelle Andelman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
“A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say ‘Open with a hook!’ to grab the
reader. That’s true, but there’s a fine line between an intriguing hook and one
that’s just silly. “An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of
overtly sexual dialogue. Or opening with a hook that’s just too convoluted to be
—Daniel Lazar, Writers House
CLICHÉS AND FALSE BEGINNINGS
“I hate it when a book begins with an adventure that turns out to be a
dream at the end of the chapter.”
—Mollie Glick, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency
CHARACTERS AND BACKSTORY
“Many writers express the character’s backstory before they get to the
plot. Good writers will go back and cut that stuff out and get right to the
plot. The character’s backstory stays with them—it’s in their DNA. “To
paraphrase Bruno Bettelheim: ‘The more the character in a fairy tale is
described, the less the audience will identify with him. … The less the
character is characterized and described, the more likely the reader is to
identify with him.’ ”
—Adam Chromy, Artists and Artisans
Feel free to visit Writer's Digest to read the article in its entirety.