will tell you that there’s no chance of having your book considered
for publication by a major publisher unless it’s presented
to them by a reputable agent. Nowadays the big publishing houses
rely quite heavily on the agent’s judgment to screen manuscripts
and to handle preliminary editing. The author depends on the agent
to find the right publisher for their work and to negotiate the
best contract. As a result, literary agents have become extremely
selective on who they sign on as a client.
attended a writer’s conference that featured a presentation
given by a panel of agents. They had a lot of interesting and helpful
information to share and some of it was downright depressing. One
agency said that they receive as many as a hundred query letters
a day. That’s over two thousand in a month. They generally
invite about thirty percent of those to submit at least part of
their manuscript. And they usually find one that they feel they
can represent. One chance in two thousand; pretty long odds.
How do you
get their attention? How can you stand out from the other one thousand-nine
hundred and ninety-nine? It starts with your query letter. If you
read all of the how-to books on finding an agent, you’ll see
dozens of examples of what the perfect query letter should look
like. The trouble is that the other couple of thousand aspiring
authors are reading the same books and writing the same cookie-cutter
On the other
side of the coin, all of the agents on the panel agreed that they’re
really turned off by queries that claim to be the next Hemingway
or that they have produced another War and Peace. It’s an
amateur ploy and they’ve seen it a hundred times. That query
heads straight to the reject pile. Sending your query on fancy stationary
is unprofessional and a distraction that may have the same effect.
we’ve been taught, “show; don’t tell.” Descriptions
are weak but actions paint a strong and clear picture. The same
goes for query letters. They need to be intriguing and to show the
strength of the writer’s voice. After all, it’s the
first chance that the agent has to feel the tone of your style.
fortunate enough to be invited to submit your manuscript, be absolutely
sure that it’s as clean as you can possibly make it. Pay an
editor to examine it if you must but if it’s not error free,
there’s a good chance the agent won’t read it all the
way through. They simply don’t have the time to correct all
of your mistakes for you.
got to this point, you need a good story that is well told. And
the agent has to determine if there is a market demand for your
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