Think you’ve got what it takes to be a literary agent?

Guest blogger Cressida Downing is a professional reader for literary agents, publishers and literary scouts. She spends much of her time sifting through manuscripts to find those gems with publishing potential.

I’ve just spotted an interesting contest that is developing on a literary agent’s blog. Nathan Bransford, frustrated by ongoing criticism of agents, has challenged his readers to go through the 50 typical submissions he gets in one day, and see if they can spot the three that turned out to be commercially successful.   

Tempting as it is to join in, this is too much like work for me! But I’m enjoying reading some of the comments.  Why not see if you know which ones you’d like to see more of?  I was particularly struck by the agent’s interruption to the contest. 

As I’m sure it’s clear from this, a literary agent doesn’t really have the time to personalise rejections when they’re going through 50 a day – and a short discussion can be hurtful, without giving the information and feedback an author wants. A writing group, an online writing community or professional assessments are the way to get the sort of detailed information that will help you progress with your writing career – and get your submission to become one of the three out of 50!

Yours, Cressida



Filed under Literary Agents

6 responses to “Think you’ve got what it takes to be a literary agent?

  1. Becky B

    Wow, I wouldn’t be happy to find out that a submission of mine was under such public scrutiny! Having said that, I guess if you think you have a good idea then getting as much feedback as possible is useful.
    Cressida – do the authors ever know about your input or do they think that the agent is reading everything and making a decision on their own?

  2. Hi Becky,

    I hope the agent asked their permission – good point though!

    When I’m reading submissions for agents, if they give feedback for any reason, they tend to mention ‘their reader’, so it would come up at that point. And all the agents I read for do sometimes read submissions directly themselves, so it’s not a given that it would always go through me. Sometimes I’m a second opinion!

    Best regards,


  3. Marion

    What a great idea! This has been a really interesting experience. So far (I’ve still some reading to do) I’ve only chosen one to save and it’s been amazing how quickly I’ve made my decision to reject!

  4. Sounds a bit like Authonomy.

  5. Hi Lolita, it felt different to me, as Authonomy is an online authors’ community, whereas this was more like a typical agent’s experience, not having time to leave feedback, but having to make quick judgements.

  6. Hi Cressida – you are indeed correct! I guess you could say that I am acting a bit like an agent – making quick judgements.