As I make my daily trek into the slush pile, I’m often quite surprised at just how many authors make the same easily-corrected mistakes. So here are a few tips for those of you currently looking for representation to go over before you hit the send button.
1. Always follow the submission guidelines.
I’m always a little shocked at how many authors ignore our submission guidelines — like not including sample pages, or attaching them rather than embedding them. (You can find our submission guidelines here.) Each agent has her own preferences and you should make the necessary tweaks to your query to meet their guidelines. While it’s policy here at the Bent Agency to respond by asking the author to correct their mistake, for some agents, it means an automatic form rejection.
2. Make sure you get the agent’s name right and skip the mass email.
While you should certainly query multiple agents simultaneously, take a second to be sure that you’ve gotten the agent’s name correct. We won’t be insulted or take it personally, but you don’t want to come off as careless. Also, skip the 'To whom it may concern' and opt for addressing each agent personally.
One or two spelling/grammar mistakes won’t prove fatal for your query (we’ve all done it), but more than a few will be sure to raise a red flag with an agent.
4. Do your research.
Be sure to research the agent and what she’s currently looking for to make sure your project fits the bill.
5. Be specific.
If you’ve been published before, we definitely want to hear about it. However, if you say that you have publishing credentials, be sure to include the details!
6. Don’t over self-promote.
It’s great to be enthusiastic and passionate about your work, but try to avoid going overboard tooting your own horn. If your project is that good—and it may very well be—we’ll be able to tell. You should use that space to give the agent a better sense of what your project’s about.
7. Keep it short and sweet.
You should be able to tell the agent what your book’s about, the hook and why you’re the author to write it in less than a page. And while you should always include a bio, try to keep it brief and only include relevant facts, like publishing credentials or what makes you the ideal person to write your novel.
8. Finish your book before querying.
While you may be anxious to find representation, avoid querying before you’ve finished your novel. Agents want to see full manuscripts that have gone through one or two rounds of edits first.
9. Start your query off right.
It’s best to start your query off with your hook or synopsis, rather than your bio.
10. Be creative.
Try to avoid starting your query with rhetorical questions like “What would you do if…” and “Have you ever wondered what it would be like if…” Be creative with your hook! You want your query to grab the agent’s attention right away.
Click here for the great Ask Agent that Beth and Victoria recently did on queries