Instinct, Insight, Imagination–Authors’ and Agents’ Tools for Success

Instinct, Insight, Imagination

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Instinct. Insight. Imagination. Agents and authors share the need for all three.

Writers utilize instinct, insight, and imagination to create books, blog posts, back cover copy, marketing materials, and career plans.

And agents tap into the same from the other side of the virtual desk.

Agent intuition, insight, imaginationWhen an agent opens a query or a proposal, the agent holds out hope that it might be The One–the spectacular book idea, written exceptionally, well with a stunning hook, a fresh approach, and a ready-made audience, from an author with creds, threads, and spreads.

That’s credentials or credibility; a professional appearance and attitude; and bulging spreadsheets of other book ideas, clever marketing concepts, and readers-in-waiting (platform).

But every day–yes, every day–agents turn down potential clients. At times, it’s an easy decision. Many times, it’s an agonizing choice. So, how does an agent decide whether or not to offer representation?


Instinct plays a large role. Agents should be known for rock-hard abs, considering all the exercise their gut receives in the decision making process.

Does this book resonate? Is it the kind of book that will appeal first to editors, and then to sales and marketing teams, and finally to readers? Does it make me lean forward? Do I want to know more? Is it compelling?


Insight is another key factor in deciding to take on a client or project. An agent taps into insight gained from studying the market, reading widely, taking note of what’s selling and what’s not, observing the kinds of projects that draw the most interest from editors, and many other facets.

An agent is trained to recognize gaping holes in proposals, red flags, weak spots.

An agent’s insight informs her about the viability of making adjustments and how much work might be involved in moving an idea from its current state to ready-for-a-publisher’s-attention. insight


As is true with writers, agents ask “What if…?” questions too.

What if the author applied this level of writing talent to a different book idea, one with more chance of catching an editor’s eye?

Or what if the author’s writing skills matched the brilliant concept? Can the author grow fast enough in his or her craft for this book to work?

What would happen if the author found ways to expand his or her platform? Could that help create this book’s perfect storm?

What changes would turn this from almost there to there?


Agent insight, instinct, imagination, invisibilityBut alas, agents aren’t issued cloaks of invisibility. Part of the job description includes making hard decisions in the full light of day, undisguised, with our name signed to the “No, I’m sorry.”

Instinct, insight, and imagination tells the agent that in the traditional publishing world, it’s a rare great idea that can override the lack of a substantial platform.

Conversely, a substantial platform alone can’t bear the weight of a poorly written book.

A great idea at the wrong time can spell disaster, too. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin missed being the first person in the American colonies to publish a magazine? Someone beat him by three days.

So what’s the takeaway, the moral to the story?


When agents or editors say no, which is more often than not, the decision isn’t arbitrary, thoughtless, or uninformed. It is a studied, careful, soul-searching decision.


Be kind. Be patient with us. Pray for clear intuition, sharp instincts, and problem-solving imaginations. And do everything in your power to offer irresistible proposals that tick all the boxes (see paragraph 4).

We’re praying the same for you.





15 Responses

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  1. Cynthia, I sure do pray for all y’all. The decisions are your rice bowl, and writers have it easy in comparison. Well, I sure do.
    * I write my heart, and have decided that life’s too short to try to deploy some terminal guidance. Most of my Christian experience is with Catholics, and rather than try to recast my stories into something CBA-friendly…I’m staying true to the hard-drinking and staunchly celibate priests I hung with. A lot of them died defending their flocks; I won’t abandon their memory.
    * And if I never get represented or TradPub’d, so what? I’m not represented now, and while Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart got a standard royalty contract from a famously ‘vanity’ press…well, they never really paid the royalties, so either way, I haven’t lost anything.
    * But I will lose, big time, if I abandon my instinct and understanding for the Catholic worldview, my insights into how ‘man bilong Pope’ (New Guinea pidgin for Catholic) can make the world a better place, and the imagination with which my dead friends left me, as their final gift in this life.
    * It’s not a career. It’s a calling.

  2. Carol Ashby says:

    And while we’re enjoying the alliteration, I’d add intrepidness to our prayers. We need to be bold adventurers who swat doubts and fears like flies as we forge ahead with what God is calling us to write.

  3. It always helps me to know what to work on when you guys show us writers the view from the other side of the desk. Thanks so much.

  4. Let’s not forget to ditch the Irrational Imaginary Critics! They are nasty.
    BUT…we need well rounded writers to become crit partners with to help polish things before we send them anywhere, but remember not to get irritated when that person says that something you think is brilliant is just as fabulous as a Brillo pad..

  5. Angie Arndt says:


    You have all of the above and grace, too. God’s led you there; He’ll give you what you need. I know your clients will be so blessed by you!