I had a wonderful lunch yesterday with a fellow friend and writer, and it brought back memories of days past submitting query letters in search of landing a big time literary agent. It also brought back some of the valuable lessons I learned during that process.
In my eagerness to get represented and then published, I didn’t want to hear some of those important lessons I needed. So, I’m sure there are others in that same spirit of impatience who will not want to hear them from me now, but nevertheless, I’m going to post them.
1. Professional – Be professional, not personal, in your query letter. Your query reveals a lot about who you are, how you write, and what that agent can expect from you as a writer. While writing may be an agent’s passion, they’re also in a business where success is dependent on the ‘type’ of writer they represent. They don’t get paid unless they can get their client signed by a publisher. So, while they may be moved with compassion by your personal story, its business that will be the deciding factor. SHOW, don’t tell, the agent that you are professional, determined, and filled with natural talent and an overabundance of drive, and you might just get that call. Don’t write a long, personal sob story about yourself and your dream of being published. EVERY writer who submits a query letter has a dream of being represented and published.
2. Polished - Make sure your query letter is error free and ‘shows’ a prime example of your writing style, a clear and correct synopsis of your story, and has a powerful message. This is probably the most difficult part of the query; writing that short, but powerful, sales pitch of your story. You don’t have to write the WHOLE story, just the pitch that gets them to want to know more.
3. Pro-Active/Promising – Agents ‘invest’ in their clients, because they feel that the writing/novel can be successfully placed and sold. However, they’re also looking for clients who will continue in that success, and are not just ‘one-trick ponies’. So make sure you ‘show’ that you’re busy working on the NEXT BIG THING, the next project, the next novel. List your accomplishments, affiliations, and the immediate working project. DON’T list everything you dream of doing in the distant future – just list the big project you’re currently working on. This tells the agent that you’re not sitting at home biting your nails, and placing all your hopes on this one book. A good agent knows that the more novels an author writes the BETTER writer they become.
4. Prepared – This is the MOST important. Don’t query UNTIL you’re completely prepared. Your novel needs to be polished, printed and ready for publication, and you already WORKING on the next project. You need to be DONE – completed, edited and ready to go. This is how you will immediately lose an opportunity for representation and burn a networking bridge – by getting a request for a partial or full manuscript, but then not have one ready to send immediately, or it’s unedited and not in the best possible shape. This SHOWS an agent that the writer is unprofessional, lazy and impatient.
So, if you’re thinking about sending out that query letter, but haven’t covered these basic issues, don’t. Remove your emotions from the process and tackle it with the prowess of professionalism. Then watch those requests and offers come pouring it.
Till next time,