[This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, an author’s submission service that has been helping creative writers make submissions since 1994. Their work is highly recommended in the writing community, and there are TONS of freebies, publishing leads, and writers resources on their website. Check it out!]
Good literary agents have an inherent interest in taking all queries seriously. The trouble is they are busy, rushed, and have seen it all before. The best approach to getting an agent’s attention is to dazzle him or her from the get-go while simultaneously avoiding certain red flags that agents look for to differentiate work they might represent from straight rejections.
Here are five secrets for getting a literary agent to read your query:
1. Write An Amazing Query Letter
Your query letter is the first thing a literary agent is going to read. But it’s no secret that query letters can be pretty difficult to write—especially if you’re the author of the book.
Check out our Free Publishing Tool Kit: How To Write A Query Letter to learn more about crafting the perfect query letter.
Inside you’ll learn:
- What to include in a query letter
- How to write a killer book blurb
- How to write a professional bio
- The proper etiquette for addressing agents
2. Don’t Blow Your Word Count
There is a target word count for every genre of fiction and nonfiction. Be sure your book is within the range suitable for your genre. Mentioning your word count is advised for your query letter, since it will be one of the first things an agent looks for. Don’t blow your opportunity for representation on the word count.
Check out our article to find your ideal word count: Genre Fiction Rules
3. Make Sure Your First Five Pages Are Phenomenal
Once an agent has read through your query letter and decided to give your prose a chance, it’s important to dazzle him/her from the get-go. Focus on introducing your main character or setting in a unique or dynamic way that takes the reader by surprise. Practice your craft until your prose is clinical, sound, and vibrant. You may only get a few pages to win over an agent’s heart, so make the best of them!
4. Don’t Get Eliminated By Failure To Follow Submission Guidelines
One of the most critical steps to submitting your query to literary agents is following the agency’s submission guidelines. Some agencies may ask for a query packet (which contains your query letter, synopsis, and about the first fifteen pages), a query letter and sample pages, or just a query letter. No matter what they request, it’s a good idea to submit ONLY what they request. The last thing agents want is to be bombarded by unrequested materials. Play it safe and follow the submission guidelines. Keep in mind this may also mean reformatting your work.
Learn more about submission guidelines here: How To Interpret Submission Guidelines
5. Send Your Work To The Right Agents
So you’ve written your query letter and prepared your materials. Now it’s time to actually submit your query to literary agents. First things first: Be sure to only target agents that represent your genre of work.
To find literary agents, try looking through market books or online listings such as the Association of Authors’ Representatives. Thorough, up-to-date research is one of the many perks offered by Writer’s Relief’s submission service. Learn more about our Full Service and A La Carte programs. Once you’ve found appropriate literary agents, send that query!
Submitting your book to literary agents is not as intimidating as you may think. It’s important to remember that agents do take queries quite seriously as long as writers don’t give them a reason not to. By taking heed of these five secrets, you bring yourself one step closer to securing representation!
Question: What other tips do you follow for getting literary agents to read your query?