The following was discovered (it hardly bears mentioning) beneath a huge pile of unread manuscripts in a literary agent’s office.

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We, the literary agents of the world, are sworn to follow this creed:


We vow not to reply to writers and to maintain our silence under all circumstances. If we are ultimately forced to respond in some way, it will be with a zen koan for the writer to ponder ceaselessly, such as:

  • Not for me;
  • Good luck elsewhere;
  • You’re a terrific writer;
  • I wish I could take this on;
  • This blew me away;
  • ETC.


We will stretch, deform, and alter the writer’s conventional and overly simplistic understanding of time:

  • “Tomorrow” will actually mean a week or two.
  • “A week or two” will actually mean two to three months.
  • “Two months” will actually mean a year.
  • “A year” will actually mean never.
  • “Never in a million years” will retain its current meaning.


We vow always to carry our phones, implicitly conveying that we are always reachable, when in fact, we are never reachable at all. Should a writer actually become a money-generating client, we will at long last supply them with our sacred personal phone number, but changing one digit so that they can’t actually get through, thereby assuring that when and if this mistake is discovered, it will appear as an inadvertent error, probably on the writer’s part.


We will make the writer imagine by our silence that we have had a death in the family or family emergency; that we are no longer in the business; that we have lost the manuscript; that we do not, in fact, like it when we said we did; that we have not read the manuscript; that we have lost the title page and contact information; that we have a very nice offer on it and have not told the writer but are planning to surprise the writer with the news at some point and have a huge celebration. In short, we will exercise the writer’s imagination to its utmost to keep it at its most limber and neurotic and in fighting form.


We will, as literary agencies, purport to be separate entities, with separate tastes and unique points of view, when in fact we are a secret cabal, incessantly exchanging cruel jokes about individual writers and their appearances and their shortcomings, both physical and literary, and regaling one another with hilarious stories of standing up writers, not showing for scheduled meetings or lunches, or pretending to be too busy to see them.


We will attend writers’ conferences, particularly if they are held in comfy hotels in prominent coastal cities. We will display earnest-looking faces and give earnest-sounding advice, and repeatedly assure the writers that we are always on the lookout for fresh talent and the next breakout literary star, and we will even take some promising manuscripts with us, which we will drop in the trash at the airport before the flight back.

I, [AGENT’S NAME], do hereby commit to this manifesto and assert that these behaviors and procedures are inalterable and non-negotiable, as is my fifteen percent.