Unsolicited Advice from an Undercover Agent #AGENTX

Being involved in multiple online writing communities means I get the pleasure of bumping into other writers’ ideas. A few absolutely blow my mind with their amazing, unique, fresh, must-read concepts. After reading hundreds of excerpts and pitches, I have quickly formed an aversion to certain topics. Yep. It’s a long list.

As a reader and writer myself–there are some ideas/concepts/characters I am totally sick of seeing. You know what I mean. Don’t you? If not in the arena of novels, then perhaps in the land of music? I bet you can think of at least three songs that have been so ‘radio-killed’ by stations playing them over and over and over and… When they pop on, do you snatch at the knob to turn the station because you have. heard. them. enough. already.?

I’m going to pretend like I’m a literary agent for a moment. [Wouldn’t it be cool if–secretly–I already am? This John Lucas Hargis cat is my alter-ego. Hiding behind it allows me to find potential authors without being stalked or hounded. You never know…] Since I’m an agent seeking fantasy and sci-fi, I can make a list of things I absolutely DO NOT want to see pitched to me. My opinions may or may not apply to every other agent in the galaxy.

Here is my Don’t Send Me This Crap List.

  • Vampires – Sparkly, evil, peace-loving, or otherwise. They make my eyes bleed. I’d rather drive a stake through my own heart than read one more query…
  • Werewolves – Calling them Lycanthropes, Lycaons, Were-cats, or Wericorns won’t change my mind.
  • Reapers – Grim, Happy, chasing or being chased by, becoming or assisting one = REJECTED
  • Wizards – I’ll give a little leeway here. But you better work your arse off to make the concept modern. It has to smack me in the face with your unbelievable take on this overplayed archetype. Your idea MUST make me spit out my coffee and scream, “Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before?!?!”
  • Portals to other worlds – Books, mirrors, amulets, maps, attics, closets, secret doors, a copse of trees, vomit, vomit, vomit
  • Dragons – I *might* let this one slip through IF a unique, fresh, wild, unexpected interpretation should appear. No scales, fangs, claws, or fire-breath allowed. 
  • Angels – Haven’t we seen enough Gabriels, seraphim, and nephalim in novels to last us through eternity? Come on. Think for yourself. (Spoiler alert: You won’t fool me by plucking off their wings or calling them ‘guardians’.)
  • Demons – With so much imagination at your disposal, why not create your own brand of bad guy? Why reinforce an ancient stereotype? Shame on you.
  • Magical Objects as the sole-means of an MC’s powers – UGH. Can’t your character find strength within his/her/itself? Empower him/her/it! Crush the unnecessary magical objects with a super-rare sword or something.
  • Powers which suddenly manifest when the MC hits ## years old – We get it–growing up, changes, new problems, moving out of ‘childhood’, learning to deal with adolescence analogy. We got it 5 gajillion books ago.
  • Rehashed Fairytales – Unless you (1) Change every name. [Tip: I know what “Ella” is short for. Same with “Red”. And don’t even include a “step” anything: mom, sister, dog, goldfish.] (2) Hide the tale under so many of your own original thoughts and ideas that the Grimm or Disney version is no longer recognizable.
  • Fey / Faeries / Fairies – This includes any and all versions of these folk. Avoid the words Seelie & Unseelie like the plague.
  • Protags who want to be authors – Wow. Who did you model that character after?

“Thanks a lot, Mr. Agent! You just wiped out my entire collection of queried and re-queried novels. All the trilogies I have written contain at least four of the items on your stupid list!”

Sorry about that. Not really, though. I’m only one little agent. These are merely my personal preferences based on the 100,000 ideas that beg for my attention every week. Feel free to shop your manuscript(s) elsewhere. No, I do not know any other agents that would be thrilled to look at your query-killed, played out–I mean–great idea. Don’t give up. Just don’t come back to me with it…

So, what does this AgentX want to see? That’s easy.

  • An idea that is uniquely yours.
  • A concept that has never graced the printed page before.
  • A premise that makes me wet my pants (just a little) due to it’s sheer originality, simplicity, and genius.

“But, Mr Agent, all the good stuff has already been taken.”

I’m not looking for good, honey. I’m looking for a m a z i n g. Give me something that’s haute couture écriture.

“What’s that?”

It’s my new catchphrase. Taken literally, it means “high fashion writing”. And that doesn’t translate to “write a book with the theme/elements currently in fashion”. In essence, it means I’m looking for one-of-a-kind, designer plotlines and characters.  As a literary agent (ahem), from now on, I am only accepting queries for  haute couture écriture.

[Say it with me.] Haute couture écriture. High fashion writing. One-of-a-kind.

Stop wasting my time–and yours–by submitting queries with any variation of the items on my “Don’t Send Me This Crap List”. Not only will I thank you for it, but so will every other agent I know. Not that I really know any… I’d have to be a ‘real’ agent for that to happen.

If you believe your novel has what I’m looking for, please, feel free to post your pitch in the Comments section.
Prize: You may make me spit out my coffee.

I’m also looking for your parodies. How many items from my “Don’t Send Me This Crap List” can you squeeze into one query of 10 sentences or less?
Prize: You might make me pee (just a little) in my pants.

::: BONUS FEATURE: Use the #AGENTX hashtag when referring to this post & challenge on Twitter :::

12 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice from an Undercover Agent #AGENTX

  1. Does that brilliant new novel idea have to be fantasy or sci-fi? Oh wait. Those ABNA judges thought mine was sci-fi when it wasn’t really, so… it might work. But I like the second challenge better.

    When Hansel, a vampire set on learning to control his inhuman desires, finds a portal to the land of the Fey, his world is turned upside down. In this topsy-turvy place, he finds himself forced to choose between two loves – one forbidden by his own innate hatred of werewolves, the other an angel not allowed to dally in romance for fear of being sullied. The Reapers, a clan of demons bent on stealing souls, try to convince Hansel that his step-goldfish, Steve, is really a wizard with the most malign of intentions. He tries to deny their claims, but the sudden powers Steve gains when he turns thirteen fish years cannot be explained away.

    With the help of a new dragon friend, Hansel flies through the realms of the Seelie and Unseelie courts to fight the Reapers and figure out who to choose as his ladylove. Can he find the Rock of Magical Omnipotence in time? Or will he fail, and end up writing his tale in the cold world of reality in an attempt to make a profit and keep from eating cat food again? Only time will tell in “Hansel: The Boy Who Turned Away from the Gingerbread House.”


    • CONGRATULATIONS!! You are the first winner of Prize #2!

      Did you manage to incorporate every single item on my list?

      This is my favorite line:
      “The Reapers, a clan of demons bent on stealing souls, try to convince Hansel that his step-goldfish, Steve, is really a wizard with the most malign of intentions.”

      And in appreciation for your participation, I will now be following your blog: http://www.thevoveva.blogspot.com/ and encourage others to do the same.



      • *bows*

        Thank you, thank you. These are the things I do at midnight when I cannot sleep. Obviously it is a great use of time and I should be paid for it.

        And yay! A new follower! I’m getting closer and closer to 15. (I only like multiples of five.)


  2. Wericorns? Please tell me you made that up.

    What I’m really sick of seeing is Western-oriented fantasy. I’d love to see an Indian or African mythology-based dragon concept, or a steampunk story set outside Britain/America.


    • Those are outstanding ideas, Bethany. AgentX would love for you to pitch either of them. If you want instant representation, give me a steampunk novel set in Asia–interlacing steampunk ideas into the early culture without going over the top.



  3. Hey Lucas! You sound like you’d be my kind of agent, if I were looking for an agent. Can you add some more to the list? Scientists who experiment on psychotic subjects who later turn into hideous monsters of Hulk like proportions, or retired assassins whose dark pasts catch up to them to kidnap or kill a loved one, and then the retired assassin has to chase revenge and find out that he never really retired.

    Haute couture écriture – I can do that. Typical and trending vampires, werewolves, wizards, magical objects and portals, dragons who breathe fire, faerie tales, X-man like powers activated with the MC’s entrance into adolescence – I don’t indulge in any of it.

    My current WIP, which will be hitting authonomity soon, plays with the idea that reality is subject to both imagination and perception; if you can somehow believe in something so strongly, then you can restructure the world around you. It’s a different kind of magic. Spirits bond with children under the disguise of being imaginary friends. They’re teaching the children how to hold onto their imagination before adolescence and the precedents of society eats away at their psychic/transformal abilities. The main plot follows a young man who’s learning to cope with the deformed creature who had killed his mother, and a mischievously precocious spirit who begins to love him. Interesting?


    • You have presented some core ideas which have the potential for becoming an interesting story. The pitch needs a lot of work. It currently sounds more MG than YA since I am assuming the protagonist is pre-adolescent. I need an age. The themes are too dark for MG, but would be fine in the YA market. Your challenge is to rework the pitch without making is sound like “Inception” meets “Right Said Fred”.



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