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Querying Dos and Don'ts

So I was fortunate enough to get attend an event recently with a few agents, and took the opportunity to chat with them about the blog, what I do here on Ask Allison, and ask them if they wouldn't mind submitting a few tips on querying. I know that often times, landing an agent can be among the hardest barrier to break in this industry, so today, here are a few dos and don'ts, straight from the horses' mouths. I'm following up on email with a few of them for more tips, in terms of client relationships, so stay tuned.

-DO your homework. Know who you are querying and why you think you might be a good fit with said agent.

-DON'T address me as Sir or Madam or Novel Agent as I will delete you without reading further.

-DO refer to other books I've done and say you loved it even if you didn't. Flattery will get you far.

-DON'T refer to a book that you read about on Publisher's Marketplace that you loved that I just sold and won't be pubbed for a year! (This happens a lot too. Take the added step of checking Amazon for a pub date.)

-DON'T query agents exclusively. It doesn't benefit you in anyway. Go ten at a time and let the agent know it is a multiple submission. When you get an offer, email those of us that have it and let us know. We have a a lot to read and probably just didn't get to it.

-DON'T accept representation from another agent while other agents are reading. Our reading time is precious.

-DON'T attach a manuscript unsolicited, and DO spellcheck (and grammar-check) your query letters. Why should I take you on if you can't get your letter right?

-DO keep it to one page or a few paragraphs. If you can't sum up your book and your bio in a page, you need to learn to self-edit.

So there you have it. Anyone have his/her own tips for querying?

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Reader Comments (3)

You know, they seem like such obvious tips, don’t they? But I think every submitting writer needs a reminder now and then. This is a great overview of easy ways to do it right (and how to avoid doing it wrong). Loved it and I’ll share a link to it on my next blog post to send more agent-querying authors over here. It’s nice to have some refreshers. Great post, Allison!


June 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLori A. May

Very informative post, I get asked this question by people I edit books for all the time and now I'll refer them to this post. Thanks! Courtney

June 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

I broke all of these when I first started querying and was SHOCKED that no agent saw my literary genius. So embarrassing to think about now! It's okay to break the rules in your writing, but not such a great plan to break them on the business end. As always, Allison offers good advice!

June 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTrish Ryan

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