It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog as I have have been putting all my time and energy into sending my novel out to agents. I’ have had some favourable responses but no offers of representation just yet. Yep, the reject pile keeps mounting. That’s the bad news but the good news is you can learn from my mistakes and rejections so the same thing doesn’t happen to you! Here’s my top five tips for sending out query letters…
1. Write your query letter- but don’t send it till the next day.
Writing the query letters to agents is hardly the most exciting part of an aspiring writer’s process. It can feel like a chore and, just like any chore, you might be rushing to get it finished. Typos can be over looked and even if your reading something over and over again there might be glaring mistakes you are missing because you are just too close to it. So my tip is to write the letter but wait till the next day to send it. When you look at the letter with fresh eyes you’ll be more likely to notice mistakes than you would when you are desperate to just get the darn letter sent and finished with.
2. Name of agent + interview = RESULT
I always try to tailor each letter to an specific agent, the more specific my letters have been the more of a response I have gotten, even if it is a rejection. There is way more information on literary agents out there than you might realise, so much so that I always type into google the agents name and the word ‘interview’ and usually there are at least two or three interviews with agents and what they want/like/expect – or even hate – when reading a query. Some agents even have blogs and wish lists. There really is plenty of information out there if you take the time to find it.
3. Tease them!
You most likely will be asked to send a synopsis along with your work but you’ll have to give a little more information in the covering letter. I’ve had two agents request to see my full manuscript and each time I have given them just a little tease of the story in the letter- but not too much! You want just about enough info as you’d find on the blurb of a book. I usually write the hook first, then lead into who the main characters are before rounding off with the main plot line, maybe ending with a question that hopefully entice the reader to want to know more. Most agents say they are looking for a distinctive ‘voice.’ Along with the actual manuscript the query letter is the best place to showcase this voice of yours.
4. What next?
What’s your next project. A line or two about what you are working on next is probably a good idea to include as it shows you are serious about writing and you’re not just a one trick pony. Agents will want to represent someone who can write more than just one book.
5. The vital statistics
Something I always include in every letter is the word count and the age group the novel is aimed at, for example my novel is roughly 75,000 words and aimed at middle grade. Telling the agent this information means you have thought about your target market, so I’d quickly get to this point first. I also put all this information on the first page of the manuscript along with every piece of contact information I have, email, address, telephone number etc. As Rachel Stock puts it in her book the insider’s guide to getting published:
Always, always, ALWAYS (you can tell this one matters to me) put ALL your contact details on your covering letter and the submission itself. Make it easy for the editor or agent to contact you the way THEY want to…
Every story I’ve heard about a writer getting offered representation has had an agent ringing them on the phone to offer that golden opportunity rather than emailing. So there’s a thought for you, if they really like your work they’ll probably want to give you a call, best to slap your number down on that submission just in case!