Be Nice to Assistants!
Recently a literary agent’s assistant relayed to me how would-be authors sometimes treat assistants—and how potentially harmful to the author’s career that can be. The author had queried the agent, this assistant’s boss, via email, and wrote that she was sure his assistant was very nice, but she only wanted the decision-maker to read her manuscript. Little did this author know that the very same assistant is the one who reads all the agent’s emails. (How embarrassing.) Furthermore, as with all literary agencies these days, the assistant is also the official first gatekeeper of what the agent gets to read.
Since they get hundreds of queries from authors each month, agents’ inboxes are nearly always full. They need assistants—and interns—to weed through the entries and make recommendations. These are based on the quality of the writing and the agent’s preferences. It is usually the assistant who makes the initial discovery of a new author, and then passes that on to the agent who can make an offer to the writer. These assistants are highly trained and competent men and women. It is almost as challenging for them to get their jobs as it is for you to get a contract because becoming a literary assistant is a competitive process. Therefore, they do know their industry and their bosses’ needs.
The bottom line? Be nice to the literary assistant who may very well be the person who helps you gain access to the world of published authors.
As for making any demands on agents, see my entry, Never Beg! http://lizaburby.com/writers-corner/tipsadvice/