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Literary Agent Dos and Don'ts.

There are so many rules, guidelines, preferences, and pet-peeves that you hear about in regards to literary agents and submissions.  Perhaps it's no wonder a lot of writers say "to heck with it all" and proceed how they think best.  Understandable, sure, but maybe not the best choice. 

I thought it would be fun if we put our collective heads together to list out the Dos and Don'ts.  I'm anticipating a great and rather long list, but please keep in mind the subjective nature of the topic as you give and take away from it.

I'll start...

DO research prospective agents and make informed decisions.

DO follow submission guidelines to a T, as best you can.

DO personalize your queries.

DON'T mass e-mail agents one general "Dear Agent" query.

DON'T send "goodies" or "research material" to prospective agents.

DON'T use unusual fonts or colors.

Your turn!  There are so many more... What will you add? 


Corey Schwartz said...

DON'T tell them your kids think it's great :)

Casey Something said...

(or anyone else an agent wouldn't know or care about)

Great one, Corey!

Hilary Wagner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hilary Wagner said...

Scour, scour and subsequently scour once again for the dreaded typos! After you've read and re-read your query and MS, do it again! I think if there is a typo or two somewhere in the back of your MS, no one will care/notice, but if it's (Lord forbid) on your query or in the first 2 chapters or so an agent may get the wrong impression of your professionalism. A lot of us think we've edited out all the typos, but upon another read through, we find typos to our own edits!! It's usually simple issues that word will not pick up, like 'then' instead of 'than', etc. That is the best I can offer up. As my agent says, "Best foot forward!" Good luck, everyone and please forgive any typos in this post!!

Mame said...

Don't even bother if you aren't willing to at least TRY and present something they are asking for. Then again, go ahead, it thins the competition faster.

Casey Something said...

Too true, Hillary. I'm always finding typos in my MS and blog posts no matter how many times I've read the material! It's good to have a proofreader or five before subbing.

Good one, Aimee. That's like... DON'T query an agent that doesn't represent your genre.

Even in the very unlikely scenario an agent reads such a query and decides to make an exception, wouldn't you rather have an agent that already has knowledge and contacts in your genre? Definitely DO query those well-established in your genre!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Don't tell them it's sure to be a bestseller, but do offer some comparison with similar titles in the market (even better if they had some connection with the title).

Casey Something said...

That one's huge, Sherrie! A lot of writers seem to think that will gain them points.

Hilary Wagner said...

Do start your query off with a bang! Leave the word count, etc. for another part of the letter. Start with some fireworks or intrigue! Make them want to read more!! Have fun with it!!!

xoxo -- GG

kah said...

Don't say you wrote the next Harry Potter. Or Twilight.

Unknown said...

Don't send a "rough draft" of a query--treat your query like your novel and revise it!

Don't query until AFTER you've also written a synopsis (in case it's asked for as part of request)

Do look at key points in your ms.
-Five pages are usually included with the query: do the first five pages hook the reader?
-A partial could be first three chapters or first fifty pages: do each of those parts end on a hook?

Casey Something said...

Great ones Hilary, Karen, and Beth! Keep em' coming everyone. I can still think of more!

Love your last one, Beth. I'm trying to figure out how to make the 50-page point in my novel more hookish right now.

Sheri Perl-Oshins said...

Don't query before you've finished writing your (blankety, blank) novel! Sounds silly I know, but sometimes I feel like I am chomping at the bit!

Some agents at the NJ SCBWI annual conference said not to query until you have at least 3 novels written and ready to go. *Sigh*

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

dont address to :dear sir especially if it is a ma'm :)

Casey Something said...

DO know what your genre is before you query.

DON'T knock yourself down in a query but don't be cocky either. Do be professional!

DON'T respond to a rejection or argue with the agent!

Casey Something said...

DON'T freak out about format when you paste from Word for an e-query. You'll probably mess it up more.

DO paste it into a text document first (Notepad for example) to remove the formatting. It really helps!

Anna said...

DO send yourself a copy of the email query before you shoot it off to Superagent. Better be neurotic than sorry. ;-)

DO be succinct and punchy in your pitch. DON'T ramble for seven (long) paragraphs, and don't waste valuable space in generic phrases like, "a timeless tale about the all-encompassing power of love that conquers even the most insurmountable obstacles".

Fun! :-)

Casey Something said...

Those are great, Anna!

Lesley said...

1. Get to the point in your first sentence...it's gotta grab them!
2. Read "The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters" or at least scan it for rich nuggets of truth.
3. Believe in yourself!
4. Save reject letters (or at least a list of who responded) to prove to yourself that you're working hard...it gives me inspiration
5. Send your email in plain text...not html b/c you never know how it will come through on some else's computer.
6. Don't forget to breath! ;)

MsButton said...

Not even to say thank you?