Literary agent query letters

 

Writers' and Artists' Yearbook graphicYou've got to have one of these, so you might as well get it right.

A query letter is a "sell". It's your foot in the door of the agent's office. He or she is busy and doesn't need another manuscript. There are 500 sitting in the "slush pile" waiting to be read and rejected, so you'd better make an impact - and you'd got about 15 seconds.

You'd better start with the right name of the right agent. Get the title right. Mr. Ms. Mrs. Whatever. Tell them what you're selling and why you're approaching them. If you don't know why, go back to the internet or your copy of Writers' & Artists' Yearbook and do your homework.

The more pertinent your reason for targeting a given agent, the better. It's not enough to say that "you have a good reputation" - although I've said this once or twice in my time (a little flattery doesn't hurt). You need to show that agent you've been paying attention. You need to tell them that you know that they're specially interested in alien abduction, or medieval whodunnits or political satires. You can tell them that you're familiar with their authors and feel that your novel might be suitable for their lists.

Don't insist that you're the right client for them. Just suggest it. Agents, remember, know what they want (sometimes, anyway) and don't appreciate being second-guessed. If they want what you've got, they'll tell you quickly enough.

Next, describe your project succinctly and tell the agent who the target reader is. The more you know about that readership, within reason, the better.

 


 

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Mr Edit YouTube videos

 

Meanwhile, here are some of my You Tube videos that might be of interest to you. Hope you enjoy them.
 

You Tube video for writers and authors

 

Mr Edit. Let's talk about dialogue

https://youtu.be/KG0CLm1S9Rs

 

 

 

You Tube literary agent video help

 

Mr Edit. Pitching fiction to a literary agent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy698w2Ooc8

 

 

 

You Tube video - how to write fiction

 

Mr Edit. 5 Minute Fiction Fix.

https://youtu.be/y6OPUfcDH90

 

 

 

You Tube video for authors and novelists

 

Mr Edit. Let's talk about tautology.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zhoBLImV6U

 

 

 

 

Links for writers

 

Preditors & Editors. Here's where you can check out the credentials of literary agents and publishers. A must for any writer.

http://pred-ed.com

 

Creative Helps. Helpful resource for the creative community. Articles, links and tips.

http://www.creativehelps.com/products.htm

 

Nick Daws' Writing Blog. Lots of useful posts on all aspects of writing, both for print and online, plus a guest post for anyone who wants to make a contribution. Check it out.

http://www.mywritingblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Darley Anderson, top UK literary agent, on books,
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Zo Sharp, thriller writer

Zo Sharp, creator of the

action-packed Charlie Fox series of books


Jeff Kleinman, literary agent

Jeff Kleinman, New York literary agent, talks shop


Creme de la Crime logo

Crme de la Crime:

An interview with

Lynne Patrick,

publisher and managing editor of a smallerbut

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Agent query tips

 

Send an SAE
Always send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your query letter. Or send a stamped, self-addressed postcard if you prefer. A postcard saves time for the agent (and resources, for everyone).

Be professional
Have your manuscript ready to go the moment you hook an agent. If interest has been shown, keep that interest on the boil. At the very least, respond by mail and give a rough delivery date for the full document - and keep to that date. Professional writers are reliable writers. Be both.

 

Edit, edit, edit
Polish your letter until it squeaks. This can't be said enough. Cut every wasted word. Question every sentence. Make it flow. make it easy to read (try it aloud). Make it count. Never do what I have done many times and simply scrawl a few words inviting an agent to make his or her own mind up. They'll only do exactly that, and probably not to your advantage. Query letters are as important as the manuscript. Without a good example of the former, agents may never want to read the latter.

 

Be flexible with queries
Change your approach if your query letters aren't getting you any feedback at all. I've got a number of replies in which an agent has commented on "a good query". You should be able to collect some too. If not, ask some searching questions.

 

Bad language, etc
You're sending out queries like machine gun fire and no one is sending you anything other than standardised rejection letters. What do you do? You get expert advice. Try a writer friend. Check your query for bad language or anything that isn't politically correct. People are very sensitive these days (and perhaps unnaturally so). So check for anything that might offend. And keep your language as clean as possible.

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mike@mr-edit-literary-services.co.uk

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