DOs and DON’Ts: Querying to a Literary Agency

While interning at a literary agency this summer, I learned many invaluable lessons. For example, so many people think their stories are original but honestly, they’re not. Nine out of ten times, I have already guessed your plot twist before even finishing your query letter. Ten out of ten times, I’ve heard it before. However, the originality of your book will not make or break your chances of finding an agent. Your query letter will. This is why I have compiled a list of DOs and DON’Ts for querying to a literary agency. Remember that these are just pieces of advice; they will not guarantee an offer of representation.

DOs:

DO keep your query professional. No slang. Be courteous and respectful. People are taking time out of their days to read your work, time they’d rather be spending kayaking or watching 30 Rock

DO keep your query concise. Write a short plot line of your story, a brief paragraph about yourself and your credentials, and thank the agent for his or her time. That’s really it. One page maximum. 

DO read the submission guidelines of the agency you are submitting to. Cannot stress how important this is.

DO include the word count and genre of your novel.

DO complete your novel before querying to an agency. This may seem like an obvious answer but there are instances when an agency will request more material but an author has not written it yet. Huge no-no.

DON’Ts:

DON’T try to be a wisecrack. It’s not doing you any favors. Plus, you’re not “standing out” by trying to be humorous—at least 1 out of 5 people do it.

DON’T query an agency that does not represent your genre. Trust me, it saves both you and the agency a lot of time.

DON’T write out your whole life story in a query letter. It’s not the place to do so. And it’s embarrassing. 

DON’T make any errors in your letter. They make you come across as unprofessional, inexperienced, and negligent. Triple check everything.

DON’T fabricate your credentials. We check.

 

If you think there’s anything I missed, feel free to let me know!

The Day I Photobombed My Dad

On Friday, May 27, 2005, my family and I visited the historic Mission San Carlos in Carmel, CA. As I wrote in my journal entry for that day, “The Missionary was cool but scary. It’s so big!”

Inside, my constantly camera-ready dad snapped many pictures of the church. When we got home that night, we were looking through the photographs when we came across this one:

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Oh, what a lovely picture of the church…wait…

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…which Angela turned into this:

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…to which my mom cracked up which in turn prompted my dad to say, “If you show someone this picture and they still love you, it’s true love.”

Thank you, family.

From Paper to Post

I started keeping a journal in 6th grade when it was still cool to write things down on paper. Having filled three whole 3-subject notebooks with rants, observations, and feelings, I decided it was time to move my words to a blog, before my sister, Angela, spills any more iced tea on my pages.

My first post was on Friday, May 13, 2005. Here are a few excerpts from that entry:

Ok. Let me start off with one thing. This is not, I repeat, NOT! a diary. This is just a journal to look back on and think about so don’t expect me to be all Dear Diary this and Dear Diary that. 

I joined the AGSA softball team…Our team color is green. Guess what our team name is??? Mean Green Lima Beans!!! Isn’t that really weird? It’s ok with me but still it sounds corny…I’m having another softball game tomorrow! I’m pitching! It’s gonna be my very first game pitching! Here’s a drawing that just popped into my head:

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Yes, I know! It’s weird! I’m not much of an artist! Oh I’m so embarrassed by this weird picture. I’ll get over it soon, I hope.

When I am older, I want to become a writer. I like to write my thoughts down onto paper and from now on, I will write my feelings and everything down in this journal. Then, when time passes, I can look back in it and have a few good laughs and stuff like that.

My hand is getting a big cramp thingy-ma-jigger. My hand is on fire! So I’ll write again tomorrow. Later!

I drew that picture seven years ago and I’m still embarrassed. Unfortunately, my drawing has not gotten better since.