How to “win” over an agent

Sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated when submission guidelines aren’t followed. This is why Gwen is around at Red Sofa Literary. (Thank goodness!) Yesterday, upon opening a huge pile of snail mail queries, I came to the conclusion that in order to keep my head from exploding I will probably be passing this task to Gwen.

In short, I was appalled at the majority of items received. Not queries, just folks sending in things, thereby avoiding the very basic process of writing a query letter and putting it into an envelope. After all my friends laughed at last night’s post about the handwritten URL (that goes to a YouTube video), it came to mind that maybe I should share with writers how NOT to query. Maybe this will result in folks going back to the basics and the crazy shenanigans will go away!   

At least one can hope. . . .

How to “win” over an agent:

  1. Send gifts.    Preferably send puppies , kittens, t-shirts, candy bars, margherita kits, and food. If it will help with our holiday shopping, do it. 

  2. Make sure we have to sign for these “gifts.”  Agents are always waiting for these packages of random items to arrive. It’s not like we have places to be or meetings to attend.

  3. Don’t include the Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope.  Who needs to know it’s a rejection anyways?  Rejections won’t help during the query process at all.

  4. Twitter is the perfect place to send a query.  Forget email and/or snail mail. Just use those 140 characters to pitch your book idea. It will totally work.

  5. Attempt to friend the agent on Facebook.  Forget about only interacting with friends on FB. This is the perfect way to send a query through the “messages” option, as it’ll also save time and postage.

  6. Keep sending the same query over and over.  Did you receive a rejection from a certain agent already?  Maybe s/he didn’t really “get” your book. So query the agent repeatedly with the same idea/same query letter. At some point the person will lose the willpower to say “no” and take your book. 

  7. Call the agency and follow up after sending your query.  Try to call every day if possible. That won’t be annoying or intrusive and will help in getting the agent on board with your book.

  8. Avoid preparing the materials in advance.  A book proposal is a total waste of your time. Just write the book. It’s not like editors need to see a proposal either.

  9. Ignore representative categories.  Make sure to include the following phrase, “I know you don’t represent [insert explicitly stated non-representative category from the agent’s website], but I thought you’d make the exception.”   

  10. More vampires, folks.  Keep on sending them our way. We want to see more vampires. Make sure they’re named Edward and that sports cars are involved.

Now that you’ve had a chance to read these, and yes most of these things have happened to anyone in publishing (sans puppies or kittens), take a moment to think more clearly about the query process. Instead of receiving many rejections (or getting none at all), it’s time to return to the basics of the query process. 

  1. Write the query letter.
  2. Choose agents who represent your book’s category.
  3. Follow each agent’s specific submission guidelines down to the last punctuation mark.
  4. Study the rejections and see what you can do to improve the book idea. 
  5. Repeat process.


Time to go back to work now. I’m excitedly awaiting the shipment of a pet penguin in today’s mailed queries.

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  1. Heather Truett on June 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    What if I write on Lisa Frank stationary and use hearts to dot my “i”s? That would make me cooler than cool, right?

    *scurries off to query the right way*

  2. Tim Kane (@timkanebooks) on June 14, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Love the idea of querying via twitter. Now why didn’t I think of that.

  3. […] are necessary to open the doors to traditional publishing. Red Sofa Literary lists how NOT to query an agent; Rachelle Gardner adds two things she does NOT want to see in a query; and Sarah LaPolla tries to […]

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