Shot in the Foot


In response to the Izzy May I the Write: Shot in the Foot blog event: As a writer have you ever shot yourself in the foot, and what advice would you give to avoid it?

Dear Mr. Bausse, As a literary agent I have better things to do than waste my time in a Post Office collecting – and having to pay for – a letter on which there is no stamp. Please reimburse me immediately. And no, I do not want to read your novel.

Oh no! Am I really that absent-minded? Was I drunk? Not at all: a couple of days later, on a different envelope, the truth became clear: self-adhesive stamps that don’t adhere! Maybe, I thought, I can sue the Post Office – a literary career come unstuck. My advice? Avoid agents who don’t accept email submissions. Or buy a tube of super glue.

The Incredibly Cruel Creepy-Crawly


Dear Literary Agent,

I’ve written this fantastic book. It’s about an incredibly cruel creepy-crawly that kidnaps the Duchess of Cambridge and takes her to the planet of Vglchbaaal, where she has lots of adventures. I won’t tell you the ending because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but you’ll be relieved to know she does get safely back. Wouldn’t do to kill off the Duchess of Cambridge, would it? The title, by the way, is The Incredibly Cruel Creepy-Crawly that Kidnapped Kate – I just love that alliteration, don’t you?

I’m sure you’ll adore this book because it’s full of suspense and my Mum says it’s brilliant. It includes a 200 page dictionary of the Vglchbaaalian language so readers can understand the dialogues. I kept them in Vglchbaaalian to make it more authentic.

I enclose my bank details so you can send me an advance on royalties. Or if you prefer, just pop a cheque in the post.

Have a great day!




Dear Arnold,

Thank you for sending me The Incredibly Cruel etc., which I have now considered. Regretfully, I am going to pass on this. I wish you all success in finding suitable representation with another agent.


Sydney Lushpile, Literary Agent.

OK, the proper way to write a query letter is a bit different. But of course, even if you’ve sweated over it for hours till it’s perfect, the chances of getting anything other than a reply like the one above are much, much smaller than Wales one day beating the All Blacks.

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Enough said.

On the Book Country discussion board, Jay Greenstein puts it this way: Publishers aren’t looking for writers who are as good as those they have. A new writer has no following, so they need the great reviews that bring in readers. So first, your work should be at a level where if they took your submission and mixed it with that of ten writers currently with books in the stores, an acquiring editor couldn’t tell, just by reading, that yours is the one unpublished writer’s submission. And in fact, yours must be the best of the bunch.

Such is the harsh reality of the publishing world.