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Ten Things Agents and Editors Hate

Author101I got a great e-mail yesterday from Rick Frishman.  If you're not familiar with Rick he's an author and speaker with a very useful blog.  Rick's e-mail featured the subject line, "Ten Things Agents and Editors Hate," so naturally I was curious to see what made his list.  I couldn't find it on his website or blog, and since I didn't want to include the entire list in this post I'm forced to link to it at the Small Publishers Association of North America website.

I found the first 5-6 items in Rick's list to be the most important although all 10 items are well worth reading.  Here are my thoughts on numbers one through six:

1. Writers claim no competition exists.  Yep, that's a pretty popular one and the thing that always amazes me is that it's a claim made by experienced authors as well as new ones.  Every once in a great while a book idea has no competition.  The other 99,999 ideas do though, so be sure to research your topic before submitting a proposal.

2. Writers claim their books will be the next blockbuster.  Be an advocate but don't come across as wildly naive.  I remember an author telling me he felt his book had such a unique angle it was going to sell tens of millions of copies.  The problem was he was talking about a computer book that was based on a particular software product that only had a user base of a few hundred thousand.  Know the size of your market!

3. Writers say how much others liked their books.  That's great, but unless some of those reviewers happen to have an enormous platform and they'll let you use their it to promote your book it's not a very meaningful data point.

4. Submissions are made for books on subjects that the agent or editor doesn't handle.  Yes, this one's always a headache.  It's not that hard to figure out what areas and subjects an editor/agent handles.  Get that information before you send off a proposal or your submission may not make it very far.

5. Correspondence is not addressed to a particular agent or editor.  This one is related to #4 because it's clear the author didn't do their homework.  This is just like that mail you get at home that's addressed to "Current Resident."  Most of it ends up in the trash, right?

6. Writers call constantly, are demanding and don't let up.  Athough you are your book's biggest advocate, don't let your enthusiasm spiral out of control to the point where you're becoming a nusiance.  Editors and agents have a lot of active projects at any one time.  Yours is great and all, but it's not the only thing they're working on.


Michael A. Banks

All good reminders for writers! I've used the "no competition" line, but it is indeed rare. Writers often define "competition" in terms of whether potential competing titles are targeted for the same readers as their book.

But people like chain buyers may not have the time or expertise to distinguish a history IBM written for entrepreneurs from history of IBM written for computer geeks to many chain buyers. The buyer already ordered "Build a Company Like IBM" and may well pass on "IBM's Computers: A Retrospective" figuring, "IBM is IBM."

Two such books would in fact duplicate one another in much of the information presented. What matters is information that's not duplicated, and the tone--elements not readily perceived by someone who hasn't read both. (A good reason for descriptive titles ... "IBM for Entrepreneurs" and "IBM for Geeks.")

Rick Frishman

Glad you liked- Hope to see all of you at
Oct 1 and 2 in Atlanta


Theodore P. Savas

Hi Joe

Interesting information. I have encountered every one of them, several of them many times. Drives one to distraction.

Keep up the good work.

Best regards,

Theodore P. Savas
Managing Director, Savas Beatie LLC
989 Governor Dr., Suite 102
P.O. Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
916.941.6896 (phone / 916.941.6895 (fax)

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Jess Haberman

Hi Joe,
As an editor, I was surprised not to find anything about authors who never respond to your requests to resolve queries on their manuscript. I mean, do they want to get published or not?

Thanks for the tips. I'm adding your feed now!


Joe Wikert

Hi Jess. You make an excellent case for what should be item #11.

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