Do Your Homework to Land a Literary Agent

5 August, 2013

It never ceases to amaze me by 99% of the unsolicited queries we receive at the agency are doomed.  Why?  Because in so many cases, theheadshot_joelledelbourgo writer clearly did not check our agency website and submission guidelines.  And I’m assuming that if they are querying multiple literary agents (which, by the way, is OK), this is true for the queries directed to them as well.

How do we know this?  Here are some of the telltale signs:

*The letter is addressed to “Dear Sir or Madam.”  Always, always, direct your query to a specific agent within an agency.  That also means, do not direct your letter to someone who is not an agent.  We, for example, have a publicist and several editors affiliated with the agency.

*In the case of a query letter that is mailed in, there is no self-addressed, stamped envelope (as stipulated on our website), or in the case of a query from abroad, there is a postal coupon that we specifically ask authors not to send us as the post offices often don’t know what to do with them.

*The works that are being offered do not reflect our interests, which again, are stated in the agent bios on our website.

*The letters are poorly written. We ask authors to make their best effort to write a letter that reflects their talents as a writer, that showcases the writing itself.  If your letter is not well-written, then why should we expect the proposal or sample text to be any better?

*Email queries are sometimes sent out in a mass mailing to agents who are all copied on the same email. This shows very little preparation and research and is poor form.

There is an art to approaching an agent. It is no longer a secret as there are many wonderful resources and books on how to get published, how to write a query letter and/or proposal.  There are communities of writers, many of them online, who graciously share their knowledge and experience.  Take the time to do your homework.  We are actually eager to hear from you and love nothing better than responding to a well-crafted query about a fascinating subject you can illuminate or dazzling story you have to tell.

–Joelle Delbourgo