An insider’s perspective on literary agents by Aisha Bushby (Part 1)

Let’s talk about Literary Agents.

I remember interning at a literary agency for the first time and being in awe of the seemingly super-human agents who floated around the office as if on air. I attended meetings where they discussed rights, and territories – and fought passionately for their authors – while I sat on the sidelines, hovering, incase the phone rang in the main office. I answered calls in the middle of big deals, anxious editors waiting on the other end to hear if their bid was the highest. I asked them to call back, the agent’s line was busy at the moment, and I heard the disappointment in their voices when they said goodbye.

That’s the thing about agents. We perceive them as having all of the control, particularly when we are on submission to them, hoping they’ll like our books enough to want to represent us. But there are two sides to every coin.

Agents get rejected. I still remember spending an entire afternoon at work waiting to hear back from a prospective author we had just met, hoping she would choose us. We screamed and jumped up and down in excitement when she did.

Agents put so much work into our manuscripts before anything might come of it. They work tirelessly, first, to read all of our submissions whilst juggling other duties. And then they edit, edit, edit before sending our manuscripts to publishers.

After that, they might have an author on submission who doesn’t sell. They feel that disappointment too, because they were the first to believe in the manuscript enough to give it a chance.

Or, they might have an author on submission who does sell. But it doesn’t end there. They make sure we get the right deal and, after that, the right coverage and, after that, they make sure our one little book multiplies into many.

Each of our worries is their own, as is each celebration. Because, even though they are super-human in their capabilities (I still can’t work out how my agent fits everything in to the same 24-hour day that I do), they aren’t in their capacity to feel.

So, next time you’re scared of chasing an agent, or bugging them with a question, or letting them know you’ve received interest elsewhere –  please do. They’re invested in you. And, if they like your writing enough to want to represent you, they will be just as excited and scared and nervous about the new relationship as you are.

Aisha Bushby was born in Bahrain and has lived in Kuwait, England and Canada. Now she mostly lives in the worlds of her children’s books. Aisha’s debut novel A Pocketful of Stars was longlisted for the Carnegie medal and shortlisted for the Branford Boase award. Her books are always full of heart and have a sprinkling of magic in them.


Aisha is also running a writing weekend in Crawley in 2020. More details:

Aisha is running our 5 week Preparing for Submission course. More details:

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