3 Huge Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Publishers/Agents
In 2013, I remember sitting down at my laptop and telling myself I would not move until I’ve queried at least 100 literary agents and/or publishers. And for four grueling hours, querying became my life. I sat, copied and pasted my heart out to every gatekeeper with an email address. My result? The same as before I started. Nowhere. Months had gone by and I didn’t receive a single response. It was to the point where I started emailing myself to see if I that was the reason my response rate was so cold, but my email was working just fine.
So what was the problem? There were a plethora of problems with my approach but these mistakes seem to be the biggest I, and many other writers, make every single day. And each mistake is costing us representation. These are the mistakes you should avoid.
Writing is pretty hard and editing is even harder. Your query letter is your calling card to the agent. A first impression that can make or break your career. We’ve spent hours upon hours writing our manuscript and editing it that we sometimes forget to put the same effort into our query letter. When I look back at some of my old query letters; I see why I didn’t get a response back. Misspelled words. Formatting was off. Some of the emails were addressing the agent by the wrong name. It just set the tone of me being a novice with no professionalism. So why would anyone waste time on my manuscript? Take your time and read your query letter. Have three friends read it then read it again. A flawless query letter is a good step in the door.
Neglect to Research Agents and Publishers
Not doing this was also a major setback for me. Again, I just had a list of names and emails with four hours to kill. But taking the time out to see if a particular agent or publisher accepted my style or genre would have save most of that wasted time. Certain publishers only accepted a certain genre. Certain agents only accepted queries in through email or contact form on their website. This goes back to that first impression. Showing that you take pride in your work and you care enough to do a little research. If an agent has a guideline to submitting a query letter to them, make sure you follow that to the T. Your time is worth more than gold so imagine what the agent’s is worth. No one likes for their time to be wasted so put in the extra effort.
Revealing Too Much of the Plot
This can be the most difficult mistake to avoid because how much is too much? How can you possibly fit everything an agent needs to know in a couple of paragraph without giving away too much of the story? You have to focus on the cliffhanger or what they call in the industry “the hook”. The easiest way to carry out this is talk about who the main character is, what they need to do, a splash of how they’re going to do it, and the result up in the air. In this case being ambiguous is the attraction your query letter needs to catch the eye of your potential agent/publisher.
These are the MAIN mistakes people make when they’re querying an agent/publisher, but there are several other factors that can get you rejected. Speaking with some people in the business, the ones I stated above are the absolute turnoff. They can deal with some minor issues as long as the mistakes above aren’t committed. Good luck with your querying and let me know your experiences. And as always, don’t forget to subscribe below.
Author: Ty Mitchell
I write books and help writers get through their literary journey. I am the author of The Color of Love. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity. Follow me on Twitter @Ty_Mitchell or on Facebook @the-vpf.