When I made the decision to become a literary agent, the number one question I was asked was, “Will you continue writing novels?” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I love creating worlds, developing characters you never forget, and pushing my creativity. But I’ve also found the business side of publishing rather fascinating, hence my new role here at Fuse Literary.
Once the word was out, I began receiving queries from writers hoping to snag my attention with their manuscript. What I’ve seen so far has been a mix of wonderful and… not. I’m a new assistant agent, partnered with Fuse Co-founder Laurie McLean (who is also my awesome agent), so what I receive from hopeful authors will be seen by her, if I fall in love with the manuscript. But what you really want to know is what really works, and what turns me away? I’m glad you asked!
1. Queries that are not queries.
To be taken seriously by any agent, your query should be professional and provide clear information on you, the author, and on your manuscript. Lose all the unnecessary chatter such as you’ve written stories since Kindergarten, or your last vacation experience, or quotes from friends who liked the manuscript.
2. Not submitting what’s required.
All agents give their preferred submission guidelines, often on their company website. It’s sad to read a decent query letter only to see the required sample chapters are missing. That makes me a sad panda. If you send a query only to later realize you forgot the submission material, resend it!
3. Nudging too soon.
When I was seeking an agent, I remember getting advice on when to “nudge” the agent to learn if she had read my query or manuscript. Some said two weeks, others said never. The truth? Check the agent’s website to see if a general reading time is listed. Mine is six to eight weeks, so nudging me to check in after two weeks is not a good idea. If another agent has offered representation, please let me know, but other than that it’s better to give me time to read and respond. I always do.
1. Make it easy to research you.
After receiving a query, I’m always curious about the author so include URLs. My first stop will be the author’s website. There I hope to find a biography, info on published or unpublished books, and any other publishing-related news. A website is a necessity, even if you are not yet published. Second, I look at your social media presence. I may add you on Twitter and Facebook, or simply peruse your Pinterest or Tumbler. All of these online spots give me an idea of your grasp of marketing your author brand.
2. Recheck your manuscript.
It breaks my heart to request the full only to find the rest of the manuscript did not have the same care and attention as the first three chapters. Take time to read the whole thing before submitting. It’s usually bad grammar and poor spelling that sneaks in, but I’ve also read submissions where character names, motivations, or voice has changed dramatically. That was likely caused by many revisions, but it’s best to be safe.
3. Show confidence, even if rejected.
If I don’t connect with a full manuscript, you’ll get a rejection letter from me with reasons why. I’m an author, too, so knowing why my manuscript was passed over gives me a chance to make it better. Not all agents have time to do this. And if your manuscript isn’t a match with me, you should certainly pitch me with something else. That shows confidence, and I respect that.
I’m lucky to be represented by an incredible agent. I know what a good agent can do to help a writer build and maintain a career. Now, I want to do the same for you.