Today, I’m participating in a publisher pitch in an online discussion forum. It’s a little nerve-racking waiting for feedback. But I won’t write about that. I’ve been looking into querying and have a few links to share.
The wonderful folks over at the Office of Letters and Light did a Twitter chat with a literary agency this week. The results were compiled into a blog post, Straight-Talk from the Literary Agents at New Leaf. There’s a lot of good – and oft repeated – advice.
In response to the question “What are some of your query pet peeves?” one of the responses was “Being creepy.” Coincidentally, in an entirely separate Twitter conversation, another literary agent was discussing just that. Apparently, this agent, and a few others, received a rather creepy query addressed to “Dear Erotic Literary Agent”. The query contained just about every what-not-to-do item in a querying checklist.
I also won’t go into querying an agent vs. querying a publisher directly. (That sounds like good fodder for a future blog post!) I see the benefits of each, especially since, these days, smaller publishers are making it so easy. I think, though, any advice regarding querying holds true in either case.
So what are some of the do’s and don’ts of querying?
If querying agents:
New York literary agent Noah Lukeman offers his book How to Write a Great Query Letter: Inside Tips & Techniques for Success as a free download. Thanks, Noah!
Writer’s Digest, which has tons of professional advice and tips both free and subscriber-based, offers what is really a query checklist in their blog post Checklist: The 6 Essentials for Submitting Your Novel to Agents.
Author, former literary agent, and social media manager Nathan Bransford offers advice from both sides of the querying fence in his blog post How to Write a Query Letter.
That agent who got the creepy query? Here is her checklist (condensed from Tweets) which really mirrors all the above advice:
- Always personalize your queries and address them to the agent by name.
- Don’t have someone else, such as a PR firm, send your query for you.
- Don’t be creepy. [In this particular case the author queried a series of stories, of which the author’s (or publicist’s?) favorite “involves a literary agent, perhaps, exactly like… you”, which was later revealed to include “spanking and a strap-on”.]
- Make sure your work is an appropriate length for your intended genre. [By which, I believe, is meant, for example don’t send a 4,000-word story and call it a novel.]
- Follow any and all posted guidelines, such as those posted on the agent’s/publisher’s website.
- Don’t query with a manuscript that is anything other than completely polished. It should not be a rough draft or work-in-progress. [Although in last November’s NaNoWriMo I did see a call out for that month’s efforts. I would hope the publisher understood that these would be very rough drafts. Very rough.]
If querying publishers:
On the Carina Press Blog, executive editor Angela James offers Do’s and Don’ts for querying Carina and other publishers. Interestingly, the Don’ts blog post came first.
Thinking about query letters. Part I: Query don’ts
Thinking about Query Letters. Part II: Query Do’s
Whichever you do, querying a publisher or agent, I wish you good luck!