Top Ten Things Not to Say to an Agent

Another Top Ten Tuesday! Woohoo! This one’s going to be fun. Let me first say that I’m unagented, searching for representation for my last romantic suspense and my recently finished (Yippee!) paranormal romance. I obviously haven’t figured out exactly what agents are looking for, but I’ve learned a lot of things from people in the industry about what agents are NOT looking for. (This info comes from agents, editors, or published authors I’ve met and personally talked to.) I thought it’d make a hilarious Top Ten Tuesday post. Please, people, for the love of all that is Holy, don’t think for a second that I would’ve tripped on one of these hurdles. Some things are common sense…

…then again reading some big named agent tweets, maybe not..

Top Ten Things Not to Say to an Agent in a Query

10. “Email me if my log line sounds interesting enough to query you.” *I mean, really? Agents get thousands of queries a month. Do you really think that your log line is so unique, so “have to have it” that they’re going to take time away from their existing clients to contact you? No. They’re not. Query the story right away. Don’t ask permission. And follow their guidelines!

9. “I’m the next Nora Roberts.” *Okay, I haven’t heard an agent say they’re read this one, but I couldn’t imagine it would go over well. Don’t say you’re the next Nora Roberts…prove it. Knock ’em dead with your work. (And remember Nora Roberts wrote three novels before getting an agent. So if you feel the need to say this one, keep working.) **Side note: I don’t feel there’s a single thing wrong with wanting or striving to be the next Nora Roberts…

8. “I’m the New York Times Bestselling Author you’ve been searching for!” *Well, gee, I’m sure they appreciate the heads up, but this is their profession. They’re able to judge from your work alone whether or not you can get there. Just a thought. It’s kind of like a baker needing a sign differentiating between bowls of sugar and flour.

7. “To whom it may concern,” *And with that single opener, you’ve earned yourself a rejection. Agents don’t want to be lumped into a massive query submission of four hundred random agents and editors you found online. They want you to pay attention to them and their submission guidelines and rightly so…aren’t they going to pay attention to your and your career when they sign you? Pay them the same respect.

6. “Confetti and candy are included in this box. You can thank me by email.” *I had fun with this one. I’ve heard from an agent who came to speak at SFARWA a few months back that she once received an unsolicited manuscript in a giant box with candy, rose petals and confetti. She said the second she opened the box, her office was a disaster. Not the first impression you want. If you have to sugar coat your book with bells and whistles, write another book.

5. “I’ve queried everyone in your office and they all rejected me, but I think this one is right for you.” *Oh boy. First, most agents say that once you query one agent in their office and receive a rejection, it’s the same as getting a rejection from the whole office. They work closely together…don’t waste valuable time by parading between them. No means no.

4. “I have three manuscripts I’ve written over ten years. I’m going to query all three.” *First, I think if all you’ve written over ten years is three books, you’re not going to have a solid career. Agents and publishing houses want to publish writers who are going to continue writing at a steady enough pace that they can build a following. Three in ten years won’t cut it, I’m afraid. Second, you shouldn’t query three books at once. Pick your best one and query that one only.

3. “I’ve attached the whole manuscript for your convenience.” *This one may not sound like a no-no, but it is. You need to read agent submission guidelines either from their website or Publisher’s Marketplace. Sending a manuscript when they didn’t ask for it insults their intelligence…and yours. And most agents won’t even open attachments. Period. Can you imagine the kind of computer viruses they get on a daily basis?

2. “I’ve CC’d this query to my lawyer so there is no chance of copyright infringement.” *I wish I could say this one is a thrown-in phony, but it’s not. I picked up this example from an agent’s tweet this morning. (It’s actually the inspiration for today’s post.) How could a writer wanting to build a career really think this idea is a good one? Do you really not trust the agent you’re querying? Do you really think they’re going to try to steal your work? Come on. If they like it enough they’ll want to sign you, not steal your ideas and pimp them out to other writers. I’ve heard the saying before and I’ll repeat it now. “Agents don’t steal ideas, Writers steal ideas.”

And the number one thing you should never say to an agent in a query is…

1. “I have an idea for a book and I was wondering if it was something you’d represent before I started writing it.” *Simple answer: No. Write the book. Query when you’re finished. Agents bounce ideas with clients, not writers who may or may not even finish the book. Why waste the time?

I hope some of these made you cringe and some made you laugh. A few of them were written in jest, but most of them were *sadly* real examples from agents who open our queries. Now go forth and query your book! But please, please, don’t do any of the Top Ten. It’ll save you some headache.

So that’s all from CouchBoredomLand. Wish I could say I’m breaking out of this fabric hell sometime soon, but I think there’s a few more days ahead of me. Oh the joy! *disappearing grin

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