Have you ever wished to get the chance to look through the eyes of a decent literary agent? To know his point of view and what exactly is he looking for in a writer? If yes, pay attention to the next paragraphs for you are about to learn a few very useful tips on how to catch the attention of a literary agent.
Great literature and great books are subjective, but there are certain things that catch the literary agent eye. Edited or not, literary agents expect that people send them what they consider as their best work, the best manuscript they can create – something they think is ready for publishing.
It’s about creating the WOW effect!
It’s NOT about saying “No”. It’s about finding a great book that keeps you turning the pages.
All writers should know it:
Literary agents are not gatekeepers. They are real people who are impressionable and open to new ideas. They want to present a book that will keep readers interested and, frankly, leave them simply dazzled.
Finding the right authors to work with comes down to recognizing their book as one that keeps you turning the pages.
Tweet: Make it personal! Make them Laugh!
The “Dos” and “Don’ts” in writing the query
If you really want to impress a literary agent, grab a memory pen and make a mental note. The biggest mistake is addressing your letter “To whom it may concern” or starting with “Dear agent”.
The right way you should already know is:
Address your query to a real person.
Don’t send your letter to multiple agents at the same time
To recognize a template is not a tough thing for almost any agent.
Make it personal and include references if possible. Say why you think he or she is the right agent for your book and mention some of their previously published books if needed.
Don’t say “my book will make readers laugh out loud”
Also don’t write things of the vocal magnitude of “other books on my topic are wrong but mine is right”.
These are things you don’t say, but rather something you show – first the agent, and then the readers in question.
The bottom line is that a reasonably intelligent letter that pitches the book in an understandable way, addressed to the agent personally, makes the book sound fascinating and makes the agent want to read it.
So, the three remarkable milestones would be:
1. Keep it simple & short (but not too short) – one page, three short paragraphs: an introduction, a paragraph that pitches the book and a conclusion.
2. Good grammar.
3. Be professional.
If you need to really get into the details on:
- What to include in your query
- What should be left out of your query
- Formatting, structure, and length of a query
- Agent pet peeves in queries
- How to let an agent know you researched before querying
- What to do if your genre has been deemed “unsellable”
- How to write a memorable query without bells, whistles, or gimmicks
- How to write a bio no matter how many or how little writing credentials you have
- What to do before – and after – you send your query
We recommend checking on Writing a Query that Stands Out from the Slush Pile by Sarah LaPolla.
Another great free resource we recommend is What to write in the “Bio” section of your query letter from First Novels Club.
How to get in touch with the agents online
Always interact with the agents without being pushy (whether it is online or on a conference): find the right moment and make it count.
As far as the internet connections go, keep in mind that they are a matter of time – this kind of communication is a process and it’s hard to achieve it just through one social media (e.g. twitter, e-mail etc.) but rather a combination of them for a longer period of time.
How to get in touch with agents at conferences
Right moves at a conference can be:
- Get involved with other people – show interest in them and their work. You will take the focus off of yourself and start feeling better about that nervousness.
- Get in touch with other authors (not only with literary agents) – some of them might be bestselling authors in five years and they may be able to endorse and open other doors for you.
- Each conference have its own specifics: make sure your behavior clicks with the tone of the atmosphere.
How long should an author keep sending query letters before embarking on a plan B
A very wise principle to follow is:
Keep moving forward!
You’ll be able to self-publish your first book later at a later stage of your writing career. And by that time, you will be able to see how much your writing has improved since your first book. You might be fascinated by how many new ideas come to you, when you think about it.
Bottom line of encouragement
There are countless opportunities for authors these days. You just have to always show up. And as to the agents’ answers: don’t take it personally because, after all, it’s a number game.
Master of Writing thank to Rachelle Gardner for the advice in this blog post.
Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent who represents a broad spectrum of both fiction and non-fiction books. She works with Books and Such Literary Agency and since 2008 she has more than a hundred contracted books. She has made a name both as an agent and as a very generous person to the writer community. You can contact her through her blog and her Twitter .
You might also like:
In a 20 minute interview for The Write Lifestyle made in 2014, Rachelle is asked about various facts and milestones in the agent’s career, the connection with the writer both on a human and on a professional level and how common interests meet in the name of the reader and great literature. Our blog post is based on this interview.
Few weeks ago, we’ve published a blog post to inspire authors with famous story openers. Here are even more first lines: A collection of 100 Best First Lines from Novels.