For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about things you should know when querying agents. If you missed the first two installments, go here for part 1 and here for part 2. What we haven’t touched are the expectations and some of the guidelines you might run into when querying agents. We’ll do that now.
-You should have a synopsis ready. Yes, I know, you hate writing the damn thing, but you’ll need it at some point, so you might as well have it ready before you start querying. Some agents will request it along with a partial or full manuscript. You don’t want to rush to write it before you send in the requested material. Be prepared.
-When querying, don’t send an attachment unless the agent requests a partial or full, or if the agent’s website states that’s how they’d like you to send the sample pages with the query. Most of the time, agents prefer to have the sample pages pasted below the query.
-When an agent requests a partial or full, don’t send them a link to click if they want to read more. Instant rejection. And, unless they specifically tell you do to so, don’t paste the partial or full into the body of the e-mail. Attach it.
-Most agents want you to reply to the e-mail they sent so they have the e-mail chain available. Don’t start a new e-mail chain unless they ask you to do it.
-What happens if the agent requests the first fifty pages and that would mean stopping in the middle of a scene, or worse, in the middle of a sentence? NEVER send an agent something that ends with the middle of a sentence. You’ll have to trust your gut or do homework on this agent to see how he/she wants you to deal with this situation. Basically, you have two options. You can finish the scene, assuming you’re not going over by more than a couple pages. Don’t push it. Or, you can cut back until you end with a good hook, even if that means handing in 44 pages instead of 50. You want to hook the agent so he/she will request the full.
-If you’re fortunate enough to have an agent request a partial or full, remember to name your document with your last name and title. You’d be surprised at how many attachments they receive named “Manuscript,” “My Book,” etc. Also be sure to remove version numbers or dates from your title. For example, you don’t want to send a document called Jane’s First Day – Version 23, January 17, 2017. It should look like this: Name – TITLE.
-Make sure to include your phone number when you send a full manuscript to an agent. Most agents will e-mail you to set up a good time to call, but some will call unexpectedly. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have questions ready, because you should ask him/her questions when he/she calls. You need to make sure this will be a good fit for you.
-While you have full manuscripts out with agents, you might want to ensure you answer all calls from numbers you don’t recognize in a friendly way. Imagine if an agent were calling and you answered, “If this is another f—– telemarketer, I’m going to track you down and rip out your tongue.” Maybe wait until after the querying stage before you let your crazy come out. Just sayin’.
-A part of being professional is for you to not respond negatively to a rejection. Some writers will thank the agent for their time, and others will simply move on. Either is fine. DON’T e-mail the agent a nasty note. EVER.
-If you’re lucky enough to receive an offer of representation from an agent, resist the urge to accept immediately. I know, it’ll be tough, but you can do it. Even if this is your dream agent, you owe it to the other agents, who are possibly reading your material or considering offering as well, the chance to woo you. And, you might be surprised. I’ve heard plenty of stories of authors thinking they’d accept an offer from Dream Agent only to accept one from a different agent instead. It’s all about finding the right fit for you and your career.
Editing Update: My next available slot is February 13. Book now.
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner