After our month talking about conferences on the blog, we are now going to spend some time on query letters and submissions. Next week agents Beth Phelan and Victoria Lowes will run a query letter Ask Us Anything (stay tuned for more info), and today I’m reposting a popular old blog post about how to make a good impression with your query letter.
Molly and I analysed a lot of queries on our regular Ask Agent column last year (here, here, here, here and here) so for today’s blog post, I thought I’d talk about things outside of the meat of the actual pitch.
- Don’t apologise for taking up an agent’s time. If they are open to submissions then they are happy to hear from you. Reading submissions is an important part of our job.
- Don’t put down your own work or your writing skill. If you are negative, it’s going to rub off on the agent and they will look at your work already expecting it to be bad.
- Don’t be too over-familiar – commenting on photos agents post on social media may seem like a compliment, but it can come across creepy.
- Not attaching massive files seems obvious. But don’t add in smiley faces and other small images, either. These often look like they are embedded in the email when you send, but come though as an attachment, so your email will be deleted or get stuck in spam. (And also, don’t use smiley faces – this is a business email).
- In an email, there is no need to put the agency address at the top. It’s an email, not a letter. You can put your own address under your name. We shouldn’t have to scroll through a page of addresses to get to the actual query. Speed is everything, so help us get to the best bit quickly!
- Make sure you title your email – not just ‘A book,’ ‘Query’ etc. That isn’t very descriptive. If I see a query come in while I’m at my desk and it has a really snappy title, I’ll be more likely to take a look at the pages sooner. ‘My book’ says nothing to me, but ‘YA romance/REALLY AWESOME TITLE/Author Name’ will get me excited without even reading a word.
- Don’t ignore submission details – we all get a lot of queries with the words, ‘I know your submission requirements are pasting the first 10 pages, but instead I have…DONE SOMETHING ELSE.’ We have to have a system, and it will immediately get an agent’s back up if you can’t follow our first simple rule.
- Don’t give extensive details of your availability to talk on the phone, with all your holiday dates and hospital plans (yes, that has happened). Just give your contact details and we’ll get in touch. It’s very rare we wouldn’t email you first to arrange a call as we want you to be prepared with questions.
According to your submission guidelines I have [consult the specific guidelines for the agency, posted on its website. For the Bent Agency, you’d say, ‘pasted the first ten pages of the manuscript below.’]