Thursday, January 20, 2011

What I learned from querying

Here’s the bad news: agents and editors are looking for reasons to reject your query. Not because they are bad people, far from it. I’ve met a number of agents and editors over the years. They are great people, personable, likeable, businesslike – and horribly overworked. Like any other business man or woman, their first loyalty has to be to their existing clients. They make deals, negotiate contracts, read requested manuscripts, forge relationships with editors and other agents…and then look through the huge haystack of queries and partials that arrive daily in the hope of finding a glowing needle. Most of it is unusable. They know that from experience. And the time they have to spend with the pile is limited. So yes, the truth is they look for reasons to reject quickly, because if this is not something they are going to want to represent, why spend a lot of time on it?

If that sounds cold, spend a few minutes imagining opening your email to see 300 new messages in your inbox each and every week. Even at a minute each that’s five hours of work. You too will want a way to work through the pile as quickly as possible. Hence you look for reasons to reject as soon as possible to give you time to devote to the one or two that show something you want to see more of.

When we send off that query, lets not give them any obvious reasons to reject.
  • Nothing addressed “To Whom It may Concern.”
  • No Historical novel sent to someone who only reps Paranormal (because no matter how good yours is, they have no way to fit that into their overfull agenda), or other genre mistakes
  • No typos, because if they see problems with the one-page query they will have difficulty trusting the quality of your manuscript.
And be sure you have a full manuscript ready. Agents hate spending time looking over a project and deciding it’s wonderful and then learning that it doesn’t really exist. The author who tells them to hold on and wait is the author soon forgotten about.

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