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 :::