Monday, September 14, 2015

Top Ten Things You Should Never Say to an Agent

1.         I’m calling to tell you about my story.
Don’t query by phone. Or text. Email queries, referrals, and conferences are the best ways to approach an agent. But you should check an agent’s website for submission and query guidelines, and follow those to the letter.

2.         Dear Sir/Madam,
This tells me immediately that you have no idea who I am or what I represent.

3.         Dear Paula Munier,
This tells me immediately that you know how to do a mail merge, but not that you know how to write. For more, see #1.

4.         Dear Paul,
This tells me immediately that you have no idea who I am or what I represent, right down to my name and gender. It also tells me that I can expect a careless manuscript full of typos, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies.

5.         I know you don’t represent “insert genre I don’t represent here,” but mine is different.
Most agents specialize for a reason: Namely, they know what they can sell, and what they can’t. Why would you approach an agent who doesn’t sell what you need selling?

6.         You can sell my 210,000-word story as one big novel or seven 30,000-word books in an epic series.
Ignoring word-count guidelines is the quickest way to discourage any professional from reading your work.  If you don’t know the word-count guidelines for your genre, look it up.

7.         All my beta readers love it.
This is almost the same thing as saying that your mother loves it. For all I know, it could actually be the same thing, as your mother may very well number among your beta readers. This means less than nothing to me, unless your mother and indeed all of your beta readers are bestselling authors in your genre. In which case, you have most definitely buried the lead.

8.         I’ve attached my full manuscript as a word doc.
Agents have overflowing inboxes. And attachments can be computer viruses waiting to happen.  Do not include any attachments in your queries unless specifically requested to do so.

9.         I’ve attached my entire manuscript as a pdf.
Microsoft Word documents are the industry standard. Submitting a pdf screams paranoid aspiring amateur author and/or (perhaps justifiably) paranoid screenwriter turned novelist. Neither (necessarily) inspires confidence.

10.      Here’s my book on a flash drive for you.
Save your time and money. Flash drives may be lighter than hard copies, but they are just as likely to get lost or tossed.

Post Script: It goes without saying—but it happens often enough that I’m going to say it—that you should never insult the publishing professionals you meet on your quest to get published, agents included.  It’s a small world, and what goes around comes around. I’m just sayin.’

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At September 14, 2015 at 11:59 AM , Blogger Jack Getze said...

Dear Mr/Ms Agent,
Epic, 100,000 word poem attached or click on THIS uTube video for the six-hour rap session. You will be spellbound!

At September 14, 2015 at 4:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay. These reminders are pretty good. And my agent would agree.

At September 15, 2015 at 4:32 PM , Blogger Cindy Fazzi said...

Hi Paula. Great job rounding up these common mistakes!

At September 16, 2015 at 10:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Extremely useful, common sense advice. Thank you so much.

At September 17, 2015 at 8:26 PM , Blogger dolorah said...

Yes but but but, my stuff is different. Unique! I don't have to follow the rules, lol.

Thanks for sharing these tips Paula.


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