You may be surprised to learn that many agents ‘cyber-stalk’ prospective authors they are considering signing. Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency and Becca Stumpf of Prospect Agency are just two of many agents who use the internet to weed out potential issues with prospective clients.
Sara Megibow, Becca Stumpf , Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger Agency and Marcia Markland, senior editor at Thomas Dunne Books (part of St. Martin’s Press) were on a panel of agents discussing the what they look for in a query and things that are absolute show stoppers for them.
· Among the positives, each of these agents is searching for an engaging story that turns an old premise on its head. They crave originality and energy. Each has their own personal likes and dislikes and encourages each submitting author to READ THEIR PROFILES to know what they each are actively seeking for representation. That being said, if you think your idea really IS the next Harry Potter, send a query, no agent worth their salt wants to miss the next best seller.
· Among the showstoppers: NO THREATS! This seems like it shouldn’t need to be mentioned, but apparently there are many budding authors who respond to a rejected query with threats from the disgruntled: ‘I’ll show you’ to actual threats of bodily harm and death. Agents often move from one agency to another for a variety of reasons and they talk to each other.
Acting unprofessionally is a good way to get blackballed and think about it: they have all your personal contact information. They can turn it all over to their local police departments and let the law handle things. Be a grown up. Remember it often takes 100 rejections before you get a positive response. Gather the rejections as a badge of honor and keep honing your craft.
How satisfying must it have been for JK Rowling to know that several of the agents who rejected HER manuscripts have been fired. Keep rejections in perspective. As I recently read in a rejection I received: Picking a query is often like being in a bookstore surrounded by shelves of wonderful books. You can’t buy them all, so you read the blurbs and pick a couple that speak to you.
Agents can receive hundreds of queries a week. They can’t read all the MS and most have a hard time getting through the queries. These agents assured us that they really do take the time to read the queries, but they are also representing signed authors, attending writer’s conferences (like this one) and book fairs. Make your query shine and it will eventually touch the heart of the agent it needs to.
· Ways to make your queries stand out: NO TYPOS!! Write actively. Keep your POV straight. RESEARCH your agent of choice. As one agent said: You are asking them to pick your query out of a large pond of little fishes, GIVE THEM A REASON TO PICK YOURS!
· One way is for you to take the time to personalize the query to them. All agents know you are probably querying more than one at a time, but they get a little annoyed when they see things such as a list of email addresses to their competitors, or Dear Miss Agent. Many won’t read a query if you can’t bother to research their name, let alone spell it correctly. Know what is expected, research, rewrite, edit, and believe in your work.
If you don’t believe in your book, who else will?