Letter to a Literary Agent – (and possibly how NOT to do it).

18 Jan

Now the title of this blog post may seem odd or even a desperate cry for attention. It’s not really and, as serious as the letter is, posting here is done with a mixture of sincerity and humour.

Basically, I will be posting my standard letter that is sent to literary agents… or, to be more precise, the type of letter I want to be able to send to a literary agent, if such people would give me the opportunity, ability too or even the time of day. As most places seem to need you to have been published, never been published, about to be published, never have looked a publisher in the eye, wear pink socks today, purple tomorrow and so many other requirements that, quite frankly, I’ve found it near impossible to find one to let me send this letter to them.

Not that it’s their fault they must be so restrictive, I fully understand why they must be extremely strict on what they look at and spend time on. Look, literary agents are running a business and are trained to glance at submissions and make snap decisions as to whether something will make them money or not. It’s business and I’d like to think it’s nothing personal.

We mere Writers will of course tend to take it personally and see it as another slight to our fantabulous work. But dear writers remember there are millions of us who do fantabulous work… and we out-number the Literary Agents by a great deal. This means only a very few lucky of us Writers, those who know how to pitch said work in such a way as to make it glitter like gold in the eyes of a literary agent, actually make it through the glance inspection. I am, obviously, not one of these. My work is either not to their style, in the genre they seek but not the right mood of that genre, that I am geographically challenged, that no one has heard of me or would want to… Oh, I don’t know, I made half of those excuses up as Literary Agents are even less likely to provide feedback with their rejection than a publisher is. It’s not their fault; they have a lot of us to wade through and only so many hours in the day to do it. I get that and wish them luck. 🙂

Do I expect literary agents to read my letter posted here and start emailing me, begging me to let them represent me? Pfffft, no! I mean, it would be nice, but I really don’t see it happening as I may be cynical, but I’m being a realist too.

So if I don’t expect a literary agent to read it, why post it? Well, basically as I want to. I want to have the opportunity to put my letter out there to show I tried. Yes I won’t reach the audience I originally wrote the letter for, but I hope those who do read if find it of some help. Even if that help is to teach them how not to write to a literary agent. 😉

Why do I have such a desperate need to get myself signed to a literary agent? Well, I wouldn’t say the need was desperate… but being signed would be nice. Why? Well it would mean I could truly get back to being a Writer and not have step into those shiny Author shoes and shake my assets all the time. I would have someone paid to do the shaking to let me get on with the writing.

And if I had a professional out there shaking my assets for me, I hope it would mean I could not only pay back my Publisher in kindness for taking a risk on me, but in the money they have risked on me too. And, although I’m not so much after the money as I am after people buying, reading and enjoying my work… it would be nice to ensure I’d be getting enough to pay the literary agent, the publisher and still have enough left each quarter for my brownie fix. 🙂

Plus, I want my books read, I want them enjoyed, I want to be the type of Author who ends a book on a suspenseful one line and makes the Reader desperate to get their hands on the next book in the series come hell or high water. The money would be nice too… but I really just want my work to be wanted, to be loved. Doesn’t every mother want that of their children?

Saying that however, I do feel I probably don’t really need to be signed to one right now as I’ve only got two eBooks to show as my Author portfolio. One published, the other to be published this year… and only about forty sales to my name (who knows how many actually count and how many were kind friends and family?) And this is probably the prime reason no literary agent would look at me right now. That and, as you’re about to see, my letter probably isn’t grabbing them in just the right place to glitter like the gold they need to make the risk on me worth it.

I also need to learn to write a decent synopsis as I am pretty sure I fail at those too. Mine either sound like a technical document talking you through the steps of the story, or the blurb you read on the back. I tried doing a workshop on it once, but well… I won’t be negative but not a lot of teaching happened while a lot of self-promotion of teacher’s work did. Ho hum.

And so here it is, in all its glory, my letter. Mock it if you will, I write fiction and always seem terrible when attempting to write fact. Just don’t mention this to the Companies I’ve written technical documents for as yes, they are factual, but it is a fictional belief that the staff will use them. 😉 I do ask you don’t steal it and use it as your own letter. Be a Writer and not a Thief.

You will notice I have added my own feedback to parts of it. They are, of course, absent from the real letter.


Dear [insert name of person or agency here],

My name is Janis Littleton, although I write under my maiden name of Janis Hill.

I’m writing to you to in regards to submitting a completed manuscript of… [insert word length, title and quick blurb of manuscript here… check out My Books to see my two current works].

I will admit now to having already starting to pitch the manuscripts to other literary agents and publishers, but am yet to receive a rejection. In fact two independent publishers have shown an interest in publishing it, which is why I am seeking the assistance of a literary agent. [This is really true for my most recent manuscript Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My! Not that it helped get me an agent.]

A little about me: I’m an emerging author who lives in the Adelaide Hills in Australia, I write commercial fiction under the wide umbrella known as speculative fiction. My first book (Bonnie’s Story – A Blonde’s Guide to Mathematics) has been bought by fans of Young Adult/ New Adult, light sci-fi fantasy and Chick lit and in reviews my writing style has been likened to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. My second book (Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My!) is a supernatural adventure and is part of a series. I am already working on the next book There’s no place like Hell and plan on at least one more after that titled We represent the Demon Guild. Yes, I have a whole Wizard of Oz quotes thing going on.

I have been writing all my life and, besides these two eBooks, have had minor success with articles and prose submitted to online ezines and competitions. Besides fiction writing, I am an ICT technical document writer/ User manual writer on a contractual basis – as the need takes us. I have also been a guest blogger to other sites, and have had my own blog reference by various sites too. Most recently I appeared as a guest blogger at The Book Geek Wear Pajamas (!janis-hill/cutl).

Without current representation by a literary agent, I am very actively promoting my work and this has included holding a book launch for Bonnie’s Story during the Adelaide Writer’s Week in March 2013 as well as having my local library host a book launch for the same book on its release day in June that same year.  I have also arranged interviews/ articles in two local papers and have an internationally known local Magazine show an interest in also promoting me. My current publisher has had business cards created for my current book and I hand them out where I can to promote my work further. I shamelessly plug where I can to whomever I can.

I actively promote myself through a WordPress blog here:

Plus I have an author’s page on Facebook here:

And a Facebook fan page for Bonnie’s Story, where I ‘blog like Bonnie’ on a weekly basis, here:

Am also active as an author on Goodreads here:

While being a member of ASA (Australian Society of Authors).

If you require further information, please don’t hesitate to email me.

Kind regards,

Janis Littleton


And there it is, my pitch. Probably explains why I am a no name little fish still swimming solo in the literary ocean but hey. As I tell people: You can’t say you’ve failed at something if you don’t at least try first.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

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Posted by on January 18, 2014 in Writing


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