Today, let’s talk about the most fun part of landing an agent – the query letter.
Please don’t follow the example of the picture above. Above all, your query letter should be intelligible.
Your Opening Salutation
First things first, you need to start with an opening salutation. Just not any of the following:
BAD! Most agencies have several agents on staff. Find the one that most closely matches your book’s content and use their name.
Also, if no agents represent your type of material, don’t apply to that agency.
Your vampire novel will not go over well with an agent who represents literary fiction.
Agents talk. Word can get around about unprofessional authors.
Dear Alfredo Colesono:
BAD! Some people have difficult names to spell. In my case, it’s called being of Italian descent.
Expect an automatic rejection if you misspell an agent’s name. It’s a sign of sloppiness that will be assumed to carry over into your writing.
BAD! Don’t be too informal with an agent until you develop a rapport. Address them by their surname (e.g. Ms. Howell; Mr. Chan) in your query.
I’ve just written a novel that will change literature forever. And it’ll make you at least a million bucks. Only an idiot wouldn’t represent me. You’re not an idiot, are you?
BAD! A writer who toots his/her own horn only means that no one is tooting it for you. Let your work do the talking and save the grandiose statements for your mom.
Query Letter Contents
So, what should you have in your query letter?
A pitch/synopsis of your work, usually in about two or three paragraphs.
A brief 3rd person biography with your writing credentials. If you lack writing credentials, include either interesting facts about you or your strongest accomplishments in another field.
For fiction, you’ll frequently include part of your manuscript. The number of pages requested varies, but industry standards usually range from three pages to three chapters.
A few agents will only want a query letter.
A few agents will want your whole manuscript.
Most agents (though certainly not all) will want your manuscript pasted into the body of an email.
Don’t send attachments if an agent wants your sample in the body of an email. It will be deleted unread.
Follow The Rules and Avoid the Slush Pile
To get the best results when querying an agent, make her job easy…
Or you’ll have to resign yourself to self-publishing.
And yes, there are excellent self-published works.
And yes, there are self-published works that do get recognized.
But mostly, self-publishing is a participation trophy. You’re better than that, aren’t you?
And I know some people who either have self-published or make money steering authors to self-publish will hate me for saying the previous statement.
If you Google my name and this blog, you’ll probably find a piece saying that I’m an idiot for talking smack about self-publishing.
Hey, it does work sometimes. I mean, people do win the lottery. But I wouldn’t bank on self-publishing working for you if getting a literary reputation is what you’re after.
Or if getting any financial compensation beyond a few dollars is what you’re after either…
So, moral of the story, be nice to your agents and give them what they want!
There’s So Much More
What’s a synopsis?
How do I do a chapter outline?
Why do I need a market analysis?
What is this thing called “platform” and why do agents like authors with one?
Do I need to write a non-fiction manuscript before pitching it to agents?
I promise I’ll get into these topics in subsequent posts. Until then, write write write!
I Need All The Help I Can Get
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If you have any questions about landing an agent, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.
Fighting the good fight with you,