Keller Media Blog

How NOT to Approach a Literary Agent in the Wild

by Wendy Keller, Literary Agent

Stopped for gas on my way home from a meeting Friday.  I was on the phone offering some advice to a writer who is having contract issues for a deal I didn’t create.  I was too loud, I fear.  You know how people do when they’re not paying attention and shouting into a cell phone? I regret that I may have been doing that.

I finished the call and finished filling my tank at the same time.  (Why in the WORLD do we suddenly pay $4.29/gal for gas?!?!)  Anyway, a man came up to me with a newspaper in his hand. He seemed a little creepy, but it was daylight and public.  He had scribbled something on the “Letters to the Editor” page which he wanted me to read right then and there. 

He said, “Are you an agent?”

“Yes.”

He proceeded to tell me about all the Letters to the Editor he’s had published in newspapers all over the USA.  I said, “Do you have a website? How big is your Facebook following? How big is your email list?”

He looked at me like I was speaking Farsi or Urdu.

I said, “Do you know your Klout score?”

He’d never heard of Klout.  I took in a deep breath.

I calmly explained that unless he has a platform – a provable fan base that he can sell a book to when it releases – that his chances of selling anything are very, very low.  I told him to gather up 5,000 fans and then approach agents. 

He was crestfallen. I always feel sorry for people who don’t want to learn how publishing really works and just want miracles to happen.  (PS – publishing miracles happen only slightly more often than verifiable sightings of Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster!) 

If you want to be published, please don’t waste your life writing Letters to the Editor.  If you’re that good a writer, start a blog or a column.  Get syndicated as soon as you can. Collect names and email addresses of your fan base.  Grow your Klout.com score.  Gather up proof that you have something to say that the world wants to hear, and you can identify who in the world is listening to you.

Until you have something tangible in place, don’t accost strange agents in public places – it makes us (me) feel sorry for you that you are so very far from publication!

Want to build a life full of raging fans? Start here.

  1. This article made me laugh! At least you were nice. I met an agent at a party once and he literally said, “No chance!” and walked away.

    Do you represent memoirs?

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