Thursday, February 18, 2016

5 More Things I Learned in My First Days as a Literary Agent… (Part 2)

by Cyle Young @CyleYoung

Every day as a new literary agent, I have wonderful, exhilarating, and often very humorous interactions with people, editors, manuscripts, and prospective clients. 

These first few months at Hartline Literary Agency have provided me with an ever-growing wealth of insight that I hope will help aspiring authors on their journey to find publishing success.

I am fortunate to represent clients across three continents and to engage daily in equipping them to become successful authors. Much of my time is spent teaching and training my clients to help them avoid many of the trappings of novice writers. With the right tools, polished and edited manuscripts and proposals, and a lot of had work, these authors continue of their journeys a few steps ahead of their competition.

As always, I continue to be passionate about assisting writers who desire to become authors, and I hope these five takeaways will help you acquire an agent or get your manuscript accepted by a publisher.

1. Don’t tell an agent your husband/wife/friend edited it for you. Unless you are married to Stephen King or your best friend is J.K. Rowling it’s a good chance this describes a novice writer. I receive cover letters that mention this at least once every two weeks. If they are lucky, I will read the first page, but I can usually tell by the end of the first paragraph that indeed they are not married to Stephen King.

Don't send lots of emails to a prospective agent.
2. Don’t send lots of emails to a prospective agent. This business is slow; I can easily receive 100+ emails/day. If you annoy or pester me as a perspective client, I know you will do the same of worse as a client. That’s not something I want from my clients, and I may reject you simply because I don’t want that kind of relationship with my clients.

3. Don’t address an email to every agent in an agency as a group. Agents don’t have time to read manuscripts that are not specifically submitted to them. You may write a genre that I don’t even represent. When I am trying to find time in my day to read submissions, I always read the submissions that are specifically addressed to me first. Many times I don’t even look at “shotgun” submissions, because there’s just not enough time in the day some weeks.

Don't submit to an agent unless the book is completed.
4. Don’t submit to an agent unless the book is completed. Unless you are a successful published author. I can’t help you. If the book isn’t completed, I will typically ask you to resubmit when it is completed. I will not read your sample chapters or proposal until then. I want to sell your book, when it is ready. In the meantime, I am going to work hard to sell books for my other clients that are finished.

5. Don’t tell an agent how great your book is. Your book should be able speak for itself. I read hundreds of manuscripts. I’m going to have a pretty good idea about the quality of your book in the first few pages. Typically, when writers tell me how great their book is in their cover letter, I find that it is less than impressive. But, on the flipside, do tell me if the book has won awards. If other organizations have said your manuscripts is good, that carries some weight.

Before you submit, take some time and think like an agent.  If you were an agent, how would you respond to what is said in your cover letter?

Those answers matter.

The goal is to get the agent to read your sample chapters and fall in love with your writing. Do your finest to avoid some of these missteps and ensure that your manuscript has the best possible opportunity to find representation.


Cyle Young is thankful God blessed him with the uniqueness of being an ADD-riddled…SQUIRREL!...binge writer. Not much unlike the classic video game Frogger, Cyle darts back and forth between various writing genres. He crafts princess children’s stories, how-to advice for parents, epic fantasy tales, and easy readers.


  1. Good advice, Cyle. When I first started out, I would query agents before I was ready. We tend to get a little ahead of ourselves. After years of writing, working on my craft, and learning to enjoy the long process, I have the patience to ensure that a book is as good as I can make it before sending it off.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Great advice, Cyle. I will put this in my files for future reference. Still at work on my WIP. Still working on my craft. Thanks for these words of wisdom.