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.
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’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!