tagged with: rejection

As I continue to research agents to query for Coming Out Of Egypt, I sometimes stop to read that agent’s blog to see what he/she might be looking for or what his/her pet peeve might be. It never ceases to amaze me that most of the agents make the same comments about why they reject someone’s query.

Some of the comments I see are:

1. Query addressed to the wrong agent. Now you might think that the agent could pass it on to the right person, but if they are very busy and harried they may not be able to do this. Also, it shows that the author did not take the time to research the agency properly to see who accepts what.

2. Misspelling the agent’s name. This is a no-no! How would you like it if someone misspelled your name, or called you by the wrong name. The agent probably thinks, if she misspelled my name she may misspell other things too.

3. Not following the guidelines. If they ask for a one-page synopsis, then please don’t send two pages, thinking more is better. If they only accept 75, 000 word manuscripts, don’t send them 80, 000. If they ask for the first three chapters, don’t leave them out. These may seem like nitpicking, but they are not, when you consider that agents receive hundreds of submissions a day. As great as your query may be, they won’t have the time to call you up and ask you for the missing pages.

4. Poorly-written queries. This may not be your fault. You may simply not know the first thing about crafting a query. Then learn. Attend writer’s conferences; take a course; join a critique group; read the agents’ blogs. Many of them mention that writers confuse the query with the synopsis. Consider your query your elevator pitch, what your book is about. This should not be more than three or four lines, according to one agent whose webinar I attended and who later requested my partial. Your synopsis is where you get to reveal the entire plot to the agent. When I say the entire plot, I mean the main plot, including how the story ends, not every little twist and turn. Then make sure you proofread your script, or better yet have another pair of eyes look at it for typos or grammatical errors.

Poorly-written opening page.
One agent puts it this way. “Please, for the love of books, do not use a mirror in the opening pages to have your character describe what they look like.” Try to hook your reader/agent from the opening sentence. Another turn off for agents is beginning by describing scenery or the person waking up or starting with backstory.

Leaving out your contact information. This could be an oversight, but it can cost you dearly if your query showed promise and the agent wants to contact you. If you submit by email, make sure you use your primary email so the agent can reach you. If you sent it by snail mail, be sure to include your SASE.

Before you submit your query to an agent/publisher, you should first see yourself as a salesperson taking a sample of your product to a manager or purchaser. You should 1) Know that the company sells the kind of product you are marketing. 2) Make sure your sample is the best it can be. No smudges, parts missing, or not working right. 3) Make sure you explain as succinctly as possible what your product can do for that company. If you bear these points in mind when preparing your query, you should have a winner.

Establishing yourself as an author or freelance writer is not a task for the faint-hearted. I am realizing this everyday, but I’m also realizing that there are thousands of writers who succeeded because of their perseverance. Would you believe that authors like Stephen King, Carrie, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar and Agatha Christie, Murder on The Orient Express, to name just a few, all experienced the pain of rejection. When I think of what these famous people have contributed to the world of literature, I wonder where we would be if they had given up. (more…)