Seven Ways to Alienate Agents

and Influence Rejection

By Mary E. DeMuth

This year, I attended Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. Surrounded by a herd of Redwoods, I had the privilege of learning from those who've penned the paths before me. And, I observed some interesting ways people promoted themselves to agents and editors.

If your goal is to fuel the fires of rejection, follow these seven steps:

1. Go about your search for an agent or publisher blindly. Do no research. It's especially helpful if you have no idea who you are talking to and ask an editor a question like, "So, what do you do? Where do you work?" When you've written a suspense thriller, make a point to pitch it blindly to a romance acquisition's editor.

2. Use agents and editors. It's important to remember that agents and editors are not human beings. They are simply pawns to be used for your gain.

3. Think that agents and editors love to be interrupted when nature calls. The bathroom is a perfect place to pitch your ideas. After all, agents and editors aren't human-they don't need down time. One author, knowing this intrinsic truth, shoved her proposal under an editor's bathroom stall door. "Hey, would you take a look at this?"

An agent was in the little boy's room and was actually standing at the urinal when some enterprising chap tried to hand him a proposal over his shoulder.

4. Be crabby about earlier rejection. An editor was leafing through an author's work when the author said, "You've already rejected that one," in a tone that smacked of angry driver. Being sour and bitter is important when you're trying to get rejected. Agents and editors love to work with hostile, vendetta-driven folks.

5. Be unprofessional and approach the craft of writing lackadaisically. One man was meeting with an editor for the first time. The editor asked how long he'd been writing. His response? "Well, actually, I started my writing career yesterday so I thought I'd come to the conference and learn everything I need to know." Other important nuggets to pepper your conversations with include "Oh, I am a stream of consciousness writer. Whatever comes into my head, I spill out onto a page." Or "I don't believe in grammar." Or "My mom says I'll be famous someday. She loves my stuff."

6. Lack tact. One agent writes: "I once had an author write and tell me, 'I've been turned down by every legitimate literary agency in the world. Then I thought of you.'" Try to think of tactless things like this to say beforehand, in order to pack the appropriate punch.

7. Be overly confident, especially when this is your first manuscript. As a first time novelist, say things like, "Here's the manuscript you've been waiting for!" Be sure to compare yourself to Jan Karon or John Grisham. The name-dropping will be sure to impress.

Follow these seven simple steps, and I guarantee you'll be able to light a bonfire with rejection-letter kindling.
Mary E. DeMuth is a columnist, freelance writer and novelist who is completing two parenting books slated for release in 2005. She is married and has three children. Her family will be moving this summer to plant churches in France. For more information, click on