It Should Be Obvious…

October 20th, 2010 • Kate

captain-obvious-to-the-rescueI’m doing my best to dig myself out from under my overwhelming backlog of queries, but in so doing, I’m truly amazed how often I come across a query letter that doesn’t actually tell me ANYTHING about the book being queried. I wouldn’t think I’d need to say this, but authors, you do know that you have to pitch a specific project in your query letter to an agent, right? Your letter shouldn’t just be an extended bio, even if you’re writing a memoir.

Tell me about your book, not just why you wanted to write it, or what the reviews of the self-published edition have said.

Don’t just insert the first three pages into your email without a covering note, and don’t think that just telling me the title and wordy subtitle is enough.

And, as per Jennifer Laughran’s post of yesterday, be sure you’ve finished your manuscript before you start querying!

What other obvious advice do I need to mention?

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5 Responses to “It Should Be Obvious…”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Some advice I've collected:

    Look for websites that have agents listed in your genre well before you want to query.

    Make a list of potential agents and look for social networking opportunities (Twitter, Facebook) and set up a query tracker spreadsheet.

    Take note of their social networking posts (conferences they are attending, online chat/question sessions opportunities, pet query peeves, what they are looking for).

    Look for agent interviews with them – it will show you if you are a good fit for them as a client AND if they are a good fit for you (do you want an editorial agent, are you looking for a long-term career as a writer and want an agent who is interested in developing you as a writer, do they take debut writers).

    Take note of some information that would help personalize (but try not to be stalkerish about it).

    Think about what in your story would be specifically attractive to that agent. Don't just copy and paste your pitch if possible.

    Look for query letter examples that won the agent over.

    Proof read your letter as well as your story.

    Check if the agent's response time frame or if they don't respond at all. Some agents tweet/blog where they are up to time wise for queries. This can help.

    Don't query on Twitter or Facebook – only by official guidelines.

    Don't send a narky response if you get rejected or ask for feedback if the agent haven't supplied any.

    Don't get narky about rejections in social networks – you will get a bad name for yourself.

    Remember that writing is subjective, an agent has to be passionate about your work to represent you. They may still like it, but not enough to rep you. It's not personal – it's business.

  2. Georgiana Says:

    Don't start your query with "Dear Agent,"

    When I'm writing to someone and worried about spelling their name properly I copy and paste. Sometimes that's a good idea even with simple names. You don't want to call someone named Brian Brain. At least not until you get to know them.

  3. Shannon Says:

    More and more agents don't want the "Book Name, is xxxxxx words." paragraph first. I'm seeing more and more that want it to be the last graph. Also, I've seen more and more that prefer to have the name, address etc lines of your query after your signature line.

    Be sure to know the agents well enough to know their pet peeves with queries. I was rejected in less then 10 minutes for having my name address and contact info first in an emailed query. The agent in question didn't have that particular pet peeve in their "How to Query Me" section of their website. I had to dig into the agents blogs to find out that it was a major hate for the agent and that any query set up with that part first would be rejected without being read.

  4. Carrie Harris Says:

    If your query includes the sentence starting with "I know you don't usually represent this, but…" you shouldn't be sending it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Amie Kaufman Says:

    Don't query multiple agents via the same line. That's not what the CC option is for.