Agency Lessons: the unforgivable curse

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made. 

Warning: Today's agency lessons post is Harry Potter themed for no particular reason whatsoever. You're welcome.

Agents, in general, are a pretty understanding bunch. We get that writing a novel is a massive undertaking and querying is equivalent to a first date with Lord Voldemort. We get it. Which is why, for the most part, we obliviate charm the flub ups and re-dos and 'my bad' situations that tend to pop up.

However, in my book, there is one offense that is a deal breaker. Once you commit it, no matter how great your manuscript is, I cannot work with you. It is the unforgivable curse of writers.

What is it?

Refusing to be a professional.

That's it so please put the red pen down and stop tearing up your query. It has nothing to do with dangling modifiers or calling me sir, or misspelling my ridiculously difficult last name. Those will cost you house cup points, but won't kill you. You just need to be professional.

What does that mean?

It means treating publishing like any other business. It means taking the time to learn about the industry you want to be a part of. It means digging in like Rita Skeeter investigating a new rumor.

It means not sending this this Facebook message to our agency:
"I have a book I would like published. Who I talk to about that?"

Grammar issues aside, are you kidding me? This would be the equivalent of me walking into the Ministry of Magic and telling the receptionist. "Yeah, I'm lookin' to be an Auror. You got a form or something?"

Now, you may be thinking, geez, Sarah, harsh. The guy was just asking a question.

But it's not just a question. This was not, should I list my book info in the query first or just launch into the pitch. This was essentially a question letting me know the author has zero willingness to put in effort to find an answer. I ran a google search to find the answer to this person's query. This is what I found:


Millions of posts that are exact answers to this question. These are just the first ones that popped up on the first page. I can't imagine it gets easier than that. Arthur Weasley could figure that one out.

Which is why the question we received makes my furious. I have to assume since they know how to use Facebook, they are a fellow muggle  and are also familiar with Google. So the only conclusion I can draw is that they are too lazy to do their own research.

Look, publishing a book is a long hard road. And I get that it is also very confusing. If you ask my clients, hopefully they will tell you that I am more than willing to answer the questions that will inevitably pop up during the journey. But I can't, and won't, help someone who refuses to help themselve.

There is nothing wrong with having questions and you should definitely go out and find your answers, like Harry finding a horcrux. Just understand that publishing is a business and you need to treat it professionally if you want to avoid getting hit with an Avada Kedavra before you even get started.