Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nine Tips for Querying an Agent

with guest, literary agent Amanda Leuck.

It was serendipity when Seekerville asked me to write a post, then suggested writing nine tips for querying an agent to go with October’s theme of nine for Seekerville’s 9th birthday! It just so happens that in our office, I’m the one most often found digging through the slush pile, and I have often wished I could give the writers there a few tips.  

We get on average a thousand queries a month. I had to learn very quickly what to delete right away, and what was worth reading. So here is a list of tips to help make sure your query gets a fair read, and a shot at catching an agent’s attention.

Number 1 – Do Your Research

This is probably the most important thing you can do before querying. You wouldn’t hand over cash for a car without knowing if you were getting a Yugo or a Lexus, so don’t blindly query agents before making sure they represent what you write and can sell it. 

The Internet is a great tool for discovering what an agent likes, the types of books she represents, and the agency’s SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Submission guidelines are different for each agency, and it’s important that you follow them if you don’t want your query deleted.  

         At Spencerhill Associates, we ask for the query in the body of the email, and a detailed synopsis and first three chapters attached separately as word documents. If I open an email that is blank with attachments, it’s automatically sent to the trash. Do I worry that I may be deleting the next GONE WITH THE WIND? Yes. But more likely, a writer who didn’t take the time to read our guidelines, didn’t take the time to research our agency or make sure his manuscript was ready for professional review. Following the guidelines tells an agent you are serious about her and your work.

       Other authors are also a great resource when researching agents. Who do you know that has representation? Are they happy with their agent? Does that agent represent the types of books that you write? Are they accepting new clients? Knowing those answers will help you narrow the list of who you want to query and who may not be a good fit for you and your work.

2 - Spell Check

This seems like a no-brainer, but please make sure the spelling and grammar in your query and writing sample are correct. I have a terrible habit of leaving off letters and changing verb tense when I type. And don’t get me started on autocorrect. This has led me to re-read every email I send at least three or four times. Make sure you check, double check, and have a friend check, before you hit send. When there are errors, it’s like showing up to a wedding in sweatpants. It says you don’t care. 

3 - Never Mass Mail Agents

It is understandable that you want to get your work in front of as many agents as possible. But, you want to make sure your work is going to the right agents. Don’t send us all the same email at the same time. When I see more email addresses in the address bar than I see stars in the sky, I can tell that writer didn’t do her research, and it looks unprofessional.

4 - Get the Name Right

Make sure you are addressing your query to a specific agent, and make sure you have the name right. If I had a dime for every time I opened a query addressed to someone at a different agency, I would probably have $78. Still, that’s around 780 queries a year that don’t get read because the senders never bothered to check who they were emailing.

5 - Never Hire Someone Else to Query for You

This is a waste of money, and never works. Think about it, if an author can’t write her own query, why would an agent think she could write her own book? Services like this prey on enthusiastic new authors, but they get you no closer to a call back or request for a full.

6 - Sell Yourself, But Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Never start a query with, “Although I have no writing credits to my name…” or “This is the first time I’ve attempted to write a book.”  Even if this is true, it’s in your best interest not to start your letter that way.  Let an agent know about what professional writing organization you belong to, such as RWA, ACFW, or SCBWI instead. And if you’ve won or placed in any contests, please let us know that too.

7 - Sell Yourself, But Don’t Over Sell

I can pretty much guarantee that an author hasn’t read an awful lot when he sends me, “This completely original manuscript is like no other book, and like nothing you’ve read before.”  How would someone know that? There are millions of books in circulation in bookstores and libraries and online.  It has to be similar to something – and that is something that’s helpful for me to know. And please don’t use gimmicky fonts or colors. Bright colors and comic sans get my eyes to cross, not my undivided attention.

8 - Format

This is what I like to see, and should work for most queries.

Dear (Agent), 

First sentence should hook me into your story. Word count and genre is something I’d like to know.

One to three paragraphs summarizing the story (like jacket copy). 

Then give a short bio including your writing credits.

Sincerely,

(Author) 

Contact and website info

9 - Don’t Give Up

No doesn’t mean never, it just means not right now. Keep writing. Keep improving.  Keep querying. Remember agents need authors just as much, if not more, than authors need them. 


I’d love to hear what has worked for you. Was there something you did that got multiple agents interested? Do you have questions about protocol? Did I forget something important? Let me know!

Leave a comment today to get your name entered for an Amazon gift card giveaway in honor of Amanda's visit. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!



Amanda Leuck is an agent with Spencerhill Associates. She lives in sunny Florida with her family.  When she’s not reading and working hard for her authors, she likes to knit toys, because it’s too hot for sweaters. Learn more about Spencerhill Associates at www.spencerhillassociates.com and find Amanda on Twitter @mandileone.



186 comments :

  1. I know I hunted for a long time for comparables to Petticoat Ranch.
    NO ONE was writing cowboys back then. Nobody was writing comedy especially in historicals.

    I finally found Lori Copeland's Men of the Saddle series and it was my AH HA! Here it is! moment.

    So I did NOT say, "I write just like Lori Copeland." OH NO!

    Instead I said, "People who enjoyed Lori Copeland's Men of the Saddle series would be the target audience for Petticoat Ranch."

    Thanks, great tips, Amanda.

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  2. I can see some very valuable tips for writers here!

    I can also see some of the same rules for writing resumes or job applications! My husband was a manager for many years and you should have seen some of the applications that came across his desk! Poor spelling or grammar, not filling out the paper correctly, not following the directions on how to fill out the paper, unanswered questions, illegible writing....and the list goes on. Why would he have wasted his time on someone who can't fill out the paperwork correctly? Even if they were the "perfect" employee for the job.

    I can't imagine #4: Get the name right. I am a double, triple and quadruple checker when it comes to emails or texts or whatnot. It eliminates any embarrassment on my part by sending something to the wrong person...lol! But I suppose, Amanda, that you have seen a lot of this in your time as a literary agent, or any of these other examples really!

    Great post and very valuable :-) I'm not a writer, but I enjoyed reading this. It can apply to many aspects of life too I bet!

    Thanks for the gift card chance, who says you can have TOO many books?? ;-)

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    1. You can never have too many books!

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    2. Ah, yes, TRIXI, I am in complete agreement about the importance of proper spelling and grammar in all professional correspondence.

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  3. Great tips for writers, Amanda! And as Trixi said, some great reminders for everyone else, too! It's so important to put one's best foot forward, and that definitely includes getting names right, making sure one's grammar is up to snuff, and selling oneself the right amount ;) Having the right sense of one's value is a good thing to grasp, whether in the workplace or elsewhere!

    And LOL, true that the goal's always MORE books, right? And more to share in that case!

    Thanks for the visit!

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  4. Welcome to Seekerville, Amanda. We love Spencerhill Associates,two of our lovely Seeker authors are repped by your firm.

    Thanks for being so generous with your tips.

    This is very helpful!

    Can you share what the busy and slow seasons are for agents? Also, when you request partials or full manuscripts at conferences, what's the follow through rate?

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    1. Those are great questions! For me, the busiest time of year is the summer, especially the months surrounding RWA nationals. As for a slow season, late Fall through the New Year is relatively quiet. Everyone is wrapped up in preparing for the holidays (agents and editors included!) so not much comes across my desk.

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  5. And I am totally thunderstruck by ONE THOUSAND queries a month.

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    1. No kidding! Amanda, out of those 1K queries each month, how many, on average, would you say actually earn a closer look or even a request?

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    2. Probably ten to twenty closer looks, and one to five requests.

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    3. Those are pretty slim odds! All the more reason to strive for a great first impression.

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    4. I think I learned the word "gobsmacked" on this blog, and I think it fits this occasion. Those odds can either make Hapless Writer say "Hopeless!" or Hopeful Author say "Giving it my best shot!"

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  6. Thanks for these tips, Amanda. They're great reminders for me as I head off to my writers' conference this weekend. :)

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  7. Valuable information for all of the writers here.

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  8. I would add in "Query and then LEAVE THEM ALONE." When I was a newbie writer doing my first queries I didn't know this rule and for some reason thought it would be perfectly acceptable to email the poor agent/s every time I so much as had a new idea about my manuscript. Oh my word. I know at least one agent got a good five or six stream of consciousness emails from me before he kindly rejected me. Thank goodness I got married a few years later and changed my name ;-)

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    1. Hahaha! That's a great point, Kara. Since we get so many queries, it really is impossible to personally respond to everyone in as much detail as we might like to. And every extra email we get regarding the same query just adds to an already daunting workload. :)

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  9. Great post Amanda. I'm not at a point to query yet but these are definitely points to be remembered.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    Happy Birthday Seekerville!

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    1. Thanks, Cindy. I hope this helps you when you are ready. :)

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  10. Amanda, this is a great post! And huge thank yous for being with us today!

    I recently was cleaning (SHOCKER!!!) a cabinet and found an ancient artifact, a rejection letter from my current agent... And I laughed because she was right to reject me back then, and right to contract with me years later... And we've been having a marvelous time working together ever since! Being ready is huge, and of course I thought I was ready... but that's a whole other blog post.

    I learned to study those guidelines (and what other successful authors did to stand out) and then inject those things into my queries. And honestly, that was great practice for the big proposals I have to do now complete with sales facts and trends and comparables... so these initial queries are your best practice!

    Thank you for this clear, concise post of what an agent wants... and why it's important to pay attention!

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    1. Thanks, Ruth. Your story is a great example of how no doesn't mean never, and how persistence and practice really pays off!

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    2. Same here, Ruthy--AND AFTER MY GH WIN, NO LESS!!! But I learned so much in the interim, and I'm still learning, thanks to this sweet and patient lady!

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  11. CAKE AND COFFEE ON THE VERANDA!

    Italian Cream Cake today, with rum filling and chocolate ganache.... Yes, this is THE DAY to be here in Seekerville!!!!

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  12. MMMMMM. Special Italian Cream Cake and fab coffee on the veranda too? Be still my beating heart, Ruthy!

    Thank you for being here today, Amanda. I appreciate that you've shared this information today. Agreeing with Tina about the volume. Wawzah. Fun but overwhelming. Wshew!

    So, for indies out here, do you have suggestions regarding information to include (or not) - 2nd print run, platform, awards, etc. or do you want to know about it?

    Do you view us differently?

    Mary, that's a super way to use the information.

    Kara, I just literally LOL at your marital benefit. HA!

    Happy happy barkday, Seekerville. You RAWK! Happy day everyone. :)

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    1. I'm so glad you asked this, May! The thing to remember if you are Indie published, is don't query an agent with work you've already published. Query us with a new project. And I like to know all pertinent information regarding past books, awards, and sales.

      So many writers are Indie published now, that I wouldn't say they are viewed differently any more.

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    2. Thank you. I'd wondered this for a while so here you are with the answer! So, query with new but include what we've done on our own. Got it. :)

      Appreciate your time.

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  13. Hi Amanda,

    Welcome to Seekerville! Thank you for sharing these nine great tips with us. This is definitely a keeper post.
    Do you have a favorite time of year you like to receive queries? Or a favorite day? I know Mondays are the busiest day where I work.
    Thanks so much!

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    1. Thanks, Jackie! I don't have a favorite time of year or day, since I'm constantly searching through queries when time allows, but Wednesday's queries probably get the most attention. ;)

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  14. Welcome, Amanda. I appreciate you sharing these pointers with us. I've never queried an agent, but I'll certainly hang on to this post for future reference. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to visit Seekerville.

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  15. I enjoyed reading this post. I'd like to be entered in giveaway.

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  16. Good morning, AMANDA and welcome to Seekerville! 1,000 queries a month. I can't even imagine!

    These are great tips for writers who are preparing to query an agent and I imagine a number of our "Villagers" will be printing this off to use as a checklist when they prepare a query. It's so very important to follow each agent's guidelines. Thank you so much!

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    1. Thanks, Glynna! I hope this was helpful for new writers. Following the guidelines is so important, and each agency is a little bit different.

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  17. Welcome, Amanda. Thank you for visiting Seekerville today and sharing these tips with us. If you don't mind, I have a few questions about how the author/agent relationship works once the author has wowed you with their writing and you've signed on to represent them.

    1. How do you communicate with your clients (phone calls/emails/text/other) and how often?

    2. If a client emails you, how long does it usually take you to respond? How long should they wait to send a follow up email if they don't hear back from you?

    3. When a client sends you a new project, generally how long does it take for you to send that manuscript to an editor?

    4. If a client sent you a manuscript that was (a revise and resubmit) requested by an editor, how long would it take for you to forward that manuscript to the editor?

    I appreciate any insight you can provide. It's easy for new authors (and those like myself who are still trying to get that first sale) to be intimidated by the agent/author relationship, and that in and of itself can cause miscommunication. Thank you for taking time to respond to my questions.

    Have wonderful day, everyone!

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    1. Rhonda, lol. Do we have a single light bulb hanging as you GRILL the guest agent. Some of these questions are going to be agent and client and relationship specific.

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    2. I'm sorry, Tina and Amanda. Wasn't trying to "grill" the guest. *Hangs head in shame.* I was just trying to learn some of the ins and outs. Would hate to land an agent and then be "that annoying client" who doesn't know the rules or what to expect.

      Please forgive my faux pas. My only excuse is that I had to return to the day job today after a few days off, and I wrote this just before rushing out the door and didn't have time to go back and reread my post before posting.

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    3. You're okay. Giving you a hard time. LOL. Hey, and I imagine agents don't get to be agents unless they can address the tough questions.

      I would never choose to be an agent. Rejecting someone would make it hard to sleep at night. And yet. Someone has to do it.

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    4. Hi Rhonda! Tina is right, a lot of this depends on the client and the project.

      1. Email is usually the easiest way to communicate, especially for setting up phone calls, but it all depends on the situation and the client's needs.

      2. I personally try to respond to all my emails within 24 to 48 hours, Monday through Friday. I don't mind nudges after that, but I know that's not the case with everybody. :)

      3. It all depends on how much revision I think is necessary to get the manuscript in top form before going out.

      4. Again, it depends. I like to review everything before I send it out.

      It is easy to be intimidated by the agent/author relationship. I think it's important for new authors to talk with authors who already have representation. Each author/agent relationship is different. Each person brings their own unique personalities, skills, and needs to the relationship, hopefully in a mutually beneficial way. And like in all good relationships, communication is key.

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    5. Aw, Rhonda, I love grilling guests! You're fine, honey!!!! (puts comforting arm around Rhonda's shaking shoulders!) :)

      (Tina paid her to do that, Amanda...) (Okay, possibly kidding about the pay!!!!)

      We are not going to discuss my agent trail of lovely ladies... it stopped when Natasha and I hooked up... but I can say that Amanda and Tina are right, each agent is different in how they handle overloads of work, how they function and how quickly they turn things around. I hooked up with Killion for covers because their people worked weekends, just like I do... and Natasha has been known to work those long hours, too, so I think it's just got to be a good match.

      My hours are weird, so working with other people who are comfortable with weird/long hours helps us to navigate together.

      And yes, I still really like my former agents (and I believe they would say the same thing!)

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  18. Good insight, Amanda! I've yet to query an agent but will bookmark this for the future.

    ONE THOUSAND queries is amazing and a good wake up call to make sure I'm ready, I've done my research and I'm doing all that I can to stand out.

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  19. I'd like to also add that Seekerville needs a "Dessert Tab" where you post the recipes of all these amazing cakes and treats that are so often mentioned here!

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    1. LOL! You know we do share a lot of the recipes over at the Yankee Belle Cafe... If I put a dessert tab here, Tina would SCALP ME BALD.

      (Not kidding. Not even a little bit kidding, darling!!!!) But we could maybe do that over at the cafe, have a "Seekerville Desserts" section of our faves. Josee, that's a GREAT idea!!!

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    2. Love it and headed over to Yankee Belle Cafe...

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  20. Wonderful post! Thanks for the tips, Amanda! Thanks for the chance to win an Amazon gift card. Discovered a few more writing books I need! I really appreciate you sharing this: Remember agents need authors just as much, if not more, than authors need them.-great encouragement!

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  21. Great tips especially on National Writer’s Day! Great encouragement for new writers too. I like #9 the best.

    Thanks!

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  22. Thank you for this post. I will be printing it off.

    I had an interesting short discussion with a lady after church. She had heard I write and she also writes. She is wanting to start a writing group for Christian writers in our area. Another answer to prayer for me.

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  23. Thank you, AMANDA. I've made most of the mistakes at one time or another, so there really aren't any left, sigh.
    I am always tripped up by when to gently inquire about the status of my ms., after an editor or agent has requested it. I respect Kara's advice to "leave them alone," I'm always nervous about being a pest, but when and how should I check up on them? I've asked that question here before, and still struggle with it.
    The cake sounds good. RUTHY has been outdoing herself lately.
    JOSEE, I think the recipes are in the Yankee Belle Café.
    KB

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    1. Hi! If an editor or agent has requested your work, and you haven't heard from her in 8 to 12 weeks, I think it's okay to inquire.

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  24. AMANDA, I guess I should also ask what type of book you're looking for.
    KB

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    1. I'm looking for a great read! I represent all genres of romance, young adult, women's fiction and mystery. My reading tastes are pretty eclectic, so I will consider manuscripts outside of that. But I don't represent picture books,nonfiction or memoir.

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  25. Great post, Amanda. I've heard most of these tips, and it's good to have them confirmed by you. :)

    And can I say, for the record, that auto correct and I have a mostly hate relationship? It's embarrassed me more times than I can count—usually in phone texts. :)

    I confess, I haven't done much querying through letters. Most of my interactions with agents have been at conferences. And your #9? I love that perspective. Thank you!

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  26. Amanda: Thanks for your valuable list of tips. You have outlined the necessary points to help us as writers submit our manuscript to an agent in the correct manner. This birthday month has provided such good information from bloggers. I have printed out so many columns my folder is bulging. Time to get a looseleaf book and subject dividers so I can find these articles faster. I'm in awe of all the time good speakers we have all year and especially during our October birthday month.

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  27. Happy Ninth Birthday to the Seekerville community on the twentieth day of October. Adding some raspberry danish and carmel cream coffee to the table.

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  28. AMANDA, welcome to Seekerville! Thank you for joining our ninth birthday party celebration and sharing nine important tips for querying an agent. With the agency receiving 1,000 queries a month, reading proposals, tending your authors and attending conferences, you all are busy! What is the typical turn-around time?

    What led you to want to be an agent?

    Do you see any trends in publishing that you care to share?

    I'm repped by Spencerhill Associates. I love having Karen in my corner. Please tell her and everyone hello from me.

    Janet

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    1. Hi Janet! Thank you! Karen is the best. :)

      If I request a full after reading a query, it can take as much as 8 weeks for a response. I try really, really hard to respond faster, but if I have clients with projects, I need to make those manuscripts my priority.

      I have always loved books, and I read as much for pleasure as I do for work. There is nothing more awesome to me than being able to share great stories and great authors with anyone who will listen to me. I wanted to be an agent for the joy of helping get those stories out there.

      I feel like with trends, once they are identified, they're already on their way out. It can be a giant exercise in futility to try and write to them, especially for new authors.

      I'll say hello to everyone for you!

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    2. AMANDA, We writers are grateful for agents and editors with a passion for getting great stories out to readers. Guess that's all of us. :-)

      Janet

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  29. RUTHY, the Italian cream cake is yummy! Thanks for sharing!

    Janet

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  30. Thank you Amanda. I haven't quite learned Tip #9. I give up often. Seekerville always gets me back on track, especially encouraging and helpful posts like this one.
    On another note: I am having a tooth extraction and bone graft today to prepare for two crowns. I 'love' going to the dentist and having other people's fingers in my mouth. I am especially 'excited' for this adventurous surgery. In order to make this an especially happy occasion, I am hoping to accomplish some writing while I'm home recovering. Pray for me :)

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    1. Yikes, Cindy!!! I can think of a lot more fun "adventures" than a marathon trip to the dentist! Praying all goes well with minimal discomfort.

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    2. Praying. But really, a bone graft sounds worse than it is. I've had one. It's no big deal.

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    3. Thanks Myra - and Tina. I'll be brave

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    4. Hi Cindy! Tip #9 is something most all of us need to remember. :)

      Good luck today and feel better soon!

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  31. Hello Amanda! Rhonda Starnes beat me to my questions so I'll just say those are the main questions I think every newbie author has about the author/agent relationship. And do you think meeting someone at a conference makes the relationship start off better because you've actually met in person? Please put me in your draw...I'm definitely saving your post. Thank you for being here today!

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    1. Hi Laurie! Meeting an agent in person can definitely help, because it gives you an idea about who you are talking to and if you have any rapport. It also helps to put a name to a face. But, I have one client who I didn't meet until almost two years after I signed her. :)

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  32. Amanda, thanks for helping Seekerville celebrate its 9th birthday and writing such a stellar post! Some newbies bemoan the fact that publishers only accept submissions from agents. Agents are not the enemy! They are a writer's best friend. If you receive a 1,000 queries a month, can you imagine how many an editor would receive without you? I shudder to think. If a writer can impress an agent, they can impress an editor.

    RUTHY, you have a veranda? I'm so jealous...but it won't stop me from scarfing down the cake. Any dark roast coffee? Creamer? So good on a chilly fall morning. You're such a great hostess. ;-)

    Please put my name in the dish for an Amazon gift card. Thanks!

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  33. Amanda, thanks for being with us today. You've provided wonderful information. Regrettably, folks just starting their writing journey often jump too quickly when selecting an agent. A good agent can make a writer's career. A bad agent can do just the opposite. And by bad agent, I mean a person who decides on a whim to go into the business. I knew one who said she was an agent but had not credentials. She came to my local chapter conference and lots of writers signed with her. The so-called agent never sold a book and destroyed a lot of dreams when she skipped town and left her clients hanging.

    Those seeking representation need to do their homework. You've provided a great resource today. Thank you!

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    1. The problem with jumping with the first agent without doing your homework, is liking buying a car without driving it or looking under the hood. You are wasting time and money and most of us have precious little of either.

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    2. And it's so easy to get caught up in the excitement of "YES! Somebody actually WANTS to represent me!" instead of doing the necessary research and making sure this person can do for you everything he/she is promising.

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    3. I couldn't agree more! A couple of years ago, I attended a general market writers conference...a reputable one. A New York agent attended. Everyone was so excited and wanted to sign with her! Only one problem. I checked her credentials when I got home and found she'd never sold a single manuscript. The woman made her money by attending writers conferences and charging speakers fees. No matter how tempting, never sign with an agent on the spur of the moment unless you know their reputation and track record.

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    4. Those stories are disheartening. Something else for new authors to remember is that a reputable literary agent won't charge you a fee for reading your book.

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  34. Welcome Amanda!
    Thank you SO much for sharing these tips with us today, and I echo what others have said about being amazed at 1000 queries a month---Wow!
    After Ruthy's yummy cake has been finished, please enjoy some Georgia peach cobbler (although our Georgia temps have been too warm to suit me, I went ahead and used my oven, LOL). ;)
    Thank you again - - am adding your list to my Keeper File.
    Blessings, Patti Jo :)

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  35. Random comment alert. One of the most fun things about twitter is seeing agents tweet their manuscript wish lists.

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    1. Editor Emily Rodmell just tweeted one. I want to scream. Are you ready people?? Be ready!

      Emily Rodmell ‏@EmilyRodmell 1h1 hour ago
      If any agent or author has a complete 55k inspirational romantic suspense ms ready, I'd love to see it. You can skip the slush pile. #MSWL

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    2. Whoa! I hope someone is ready to jump on this!

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    3. That's awesome!!! Hoping someone here in Seekerville is ready!

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  36. Good morning Amanda.

    Love #6.
    I haven't queried agents before, but I have editors.
    Even though I've never started out by saying, "I'm not published, but...", I have to fight the urge to apologize. So sorry for taking up your time. I'm a new writer. I mean, what do I know about writing anyway? Sorry to have bothered you.

    :)
    Thanks for all the great pointers.

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    1. LOL, Connie! I've been the same way. :)

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  37. Thank you, Amanda. I love you...you make it easy for readers to have books. Between the agent, editor and author you guys make my day!

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    1. Aww, thank you Marianne. This makes my day!

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  38. Okay, I have to admit, I'm already impressed by Amanda. I know she is juggling her day job and still answering questions. Thank you for being such a great guest.

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    1. Thanks, Tina. It's been my pleasure. This is fun!

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  39. Welcome to Seerkville, AMANDA! As a reader, I enjoy learning how authors meet their agent. Thank you for ALL you do in getting their stories published! You are a blessing!

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  40. Thanks for all the tips. I don't think I'm quite ready yet for an agent, but I squirrel away these nuggets for the day I need them!

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  41. Put me under the list of people saving this post for future reference when I start looking for representation. Your list sounds VERY logical and doable. Glad to have this bit of "insider" knowledge.

    Thanks for sharing them Amanda!!!

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    1. I wanted to write something practical. I'm glad I hit the mark! :)

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  42. Thanks for the advice, this was helpful.

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    1. Heather! Welcome to Seekerville! Reader or writer? What do you write if you're a writer?

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  43. I think the hardest part of being a new writer is knowing when you're ready for an agent.

    I remember being told as a new writer that the best time to agent hunt was when I was a Golden Heart finalist.

    I wonder, Amanda, what sort of cover letter points make you sit up and take notice. Or is it really, all about the manuscript.

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    1. Cover letters are the first thing I read, so if a writer can grab my attention with the blurb, I'll definitely keep reading. However, the manuscript is what it's all about. The blurb just makes it easier for me to know if I like the premise.

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  44. Hi Amanda! This list is very helpful and I agree with those who've already said #9 is encouraging as well as knowing agents need authors.

    If you reject a query for one MS, can an author send a query for a different one? Do they have to wait to send the query after a certain number of days/months?

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    1. Hi Sharee!Other agencies might put a timer on when you can submit something else, but we don't. If you had a request for a full that got rejected, you may want to make sure that the new MS doesn't present the same problems that caused the last one to be rejected, but there's no set number of days or months on our end. :)

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  45. Amanda, welcome! We're so glad you joined us during birthday month! Thanks for sharing your 9 tips.

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  46. Good afternoon, Amanda! Thank you for the tips. What a great post! Does the format change at all when an author is already published and then seeking an agent? Obviously, we still need to check spelling, names, etc. But would I still query a specific story at the top of the letter and then include my publishing credentials at the end? Thank you so much! I really appreciate your time here today.

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    1. Thanks, Meghan. That's a great question. Yes, the format would be the same. Query the agent with the work you're interested in having her represent, then list your publishing credentials at the end. Don't query with a work that's already been published. :)

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  47. Never give up! Best advice ever.

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    1. I can't reply any other way but this way! Interesting post for a reader to read too, Amanda! Thanks for sharing! I always like to know what writers go through to be published!
      Valri

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  48. Guess what I've been doing on National Writing Day...

    Come on, guess!!!

    YES!!! WRITING!!!! HAPPY DANCING!!!!

    I agree with Susan... "Never give up"... I loved Nora Roberts quote about the most talented... "It's not the most talented authors who make it... it's the ones who don't quit."

    Raising hand at the truth in that!!! And leaving fresh coffee!!!!

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  49. Amanda, any insider tips on what's hot and what's not this week of October 16-22 2016. Subject to change in a heartbeat of course, lol!!

    Anything you're seeing too much of? Too little of?

    Anything you would give your first born sweater pet to see hit your desk?

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    1. I would definitely give a sweater pet for something that was so emotionally touching, it made me cry. I love when a story touches on events, feelings, and emotions that are so universally human that you can't help but empathize.

      I see a lot of Civil War stories, and heroines who are reporters.

      It's funny, because people from all over the country and even the world will send in similar stories in the same week. Like one week was 1960's coming of age tales, and the next, we had multiple submissions on the Salem Witch Trials.

      I'd love to read historical fiction set somewhere other than Regency and Victorian England. I love those eras too, but I'd like to see other areas and times explored.

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    2. That is very interesting. LOL. I am guessing this reflects television programming.

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  50. Thanks for this helpful post, Amanda! If an
    agent requests material from a pitch, about how long should the author wait before inquiring about the status of the submission of the requested material? Thank you so much.

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    1. If 8 to 12 weeks after submission you still haven't heard back, feel free to inquire.

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  51. Hi Amanda! Great post!

    I loved this line: "When there are errors, it’s like showing up to a wedding in sweatpants. It says you don’t care. "

    I was at a wedding recently where the groom's brother showed up in a tuxedo t-shirt and shorts. Yes, we all got his message loud and clear!

    I don't know how many times I've written "spell-check is not your friend" on contest entries that I've judged. You are so right. Taking the time to make sure your spelling and grammar are correct show that you care about your work and the agent you're querying.

    Thanks for the tips!

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    1. Ha! Mistakes will still be made, but it's best to try to minimize them. :)

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  52. Oh, wow! I just checked back in and y'all have been busy. So many good question and great answers!

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  53. We get on average a thousand queries a month.

    I read this four times. I can't even imagine. Wow. Welcome to Seekerville, Amanda. What great tips! :)

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  54. AMANDA, WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!

    And, WOW, where were you when I was querying, my friend? (Probably in high school, so don't answer that!) What a GREAT post that every aspiring (and pubbed) author needs, so thank you for the excellent tips!

    First of all, I can't believe anybody would send a blanket e-query to a group of agents or publishers! I mean, seriously?? To me that seems a bit of an affront, let alone the whole "no simultaneous submission thing!

    You said: "When there are errors, it’s like showing up to a wedding in sweatpants. It says you don’t care."

    LOL ... LOVE it!! And soooo true!

    You also said: "Think about it, if an author can’t write her own query, why would an agent think she could write her own book?"

    This made me smile because I am SUCH a control freak and perfectionist that I can't imagine letting anyone else write something for me.

    You asked: "Was there something you did that got multiple agents interested?"

    As a matter of fact, yes! I was pitching another 3-book deal to my publisher when I decided to pull the stops out with a over-the-top proposal that had everything sales point I could think (series overview, 1-line premise, moral premise,
    Scripture theme, promotional platform, extensive bio with awards, very detailed 7-page synopsis for all three books, and the first chapter of book one, etc.). My agent said she'd never seen a published author go to so much trouble to propose a series and that it not only wowed my publisher, but snagged the interest of another as well. I just feel when you want something really badly, going above and beyond is a good way to gain an agent's or publisher's attention, hopefully helping to put you at the front of the pack. :)

    Thanks again, Amanda, for making our Seekerville birthday month so much better!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Thanks, Julie! That's a great story! And it is so true. The more information an agent or publisher has to go on, and the more effort a writer puts in at the beginning, it makes saying YES to that author a whole lot faster and easier. :)

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  55. Hi Amanda, We have met before at a conference. I can't remember which one, but it was a pleasure meeting you. Thank you so much for joining us in Seekerville today and giving us such a great list of hints for choosing an agent. Very timely and helpful.

    Have a great day. Looks like you have been super busy. smile

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  56. Oh forgot to mention, what has always worked best for me is to meet the agent at a conference. I listen to their presentations so know what they are looking for and then I've contracted with them after they have asked me for a submission at the conference. Works great. I like meeting the people I work with.

    Thanks again.

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  57. Amanda,

    Is the cyber death of the roughly 980 submissions that don't get a closer look the result carelessness on the author's part? Or is it the result of substandard writing? Is it even possible to answer this question?
    The 1%-2% making it far enough to receive a closer look is a scary number.
    Thank you for your helpful post. You answered a lot of my questions.

    Barbara

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    1. Hi Barbara! I would say that as a rule, the authors that submit carelessly tend to be the ones that need to work more on their craft.

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  58. I don't actually have an agent seeing as I publish my books through the indie route, (for right now) but I will definitely have to look up this post later when I am on the market for an agent.

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  59. Goodness. Thanks Amanda for not only the blog, but also for answering all the extra questions. #sohelpful

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  60. Hi, Amanda. I know the east coast is ending their day and I thank you for being with us. A few questions may trickle in and if you have time to look at them tomorrow or this evening, great. If not, no worries. We are so very appreciative of the time you spent with us today. A Seeker thank you!!!

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  61. Hi Amanda,
    I enjoyed your post although I am an avid reader..not a writer. Glad you could be here today.
    Thanks for the giveaway of an Amazon gift card!!!

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  62. Great post, Amanda. I am just writing my first book so haven't looked for an agent yet, but this will be helpful information.

    Please enter me in the drawing for the Amazon card!

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  63. Your post is so helpful, revealing the secret workings of an agent's mind... aka, common sense (that isn't so common).

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  64. Thank you for this glimpse of how things work from the other side of the desk, Amanda. Great tips and information. The one thousand queries a month is mind-boggling. Puts it all in perspective. Thanks again!

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  65. Thank you for all of these querying tips. The only tips I'll add are for face-to-face conference queries. Do your homework and have three questions for the agent. I always love that agents take time out to come to the conferences and talk to writers. Sometimes even if you don't sign with them, you can still learn something valuable from the conversation. Thank you for more info from your side of the equation.

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  66. I am bookmarking this one! Thanks for making the process of querying much less intimidating!

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  67. I added this to my Pinterest Board about writing. Great tips!
    I'd love to be in the drawing :)

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    1. That's awesome! I love Pinterest. I'm glad you found this Pinterest worthy. :)

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  68. Oh my goodness, there is so much great information in your post Amanda. I am soaking up all of the great advice that Seekerville gives. Thanks so much for that!

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  69. The Submission guidelines is the one I never understand why people don't follow. After reading a rejection letter from one particular agent, I became convinced he must have two generic rejection letters, one for people who had read his guidelines and one for people who hadn't.

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  70. Excellent post. So simple and to the point! With anything in life. . read the directions. Things go so much smoother.
    Becky

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  71. Amanda, thanks for the tips, especially number nine.

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  72. I used to work in recruitment (in the days before email), and we had some of the same bugbears as you.

    In particular, #5, which was closely related to #2 and #4. I ALWAYS spelling or other errors in applications where it was obvious the candidate had paid someone to write their CV. I rarely found mistakes where the candidate had prepared the application themselves.

    And #9 is great advice - thanks!

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  73. Thanks for your checklist here Amanda and I've enjoyed reading all the comments above. Ruth, your story of being rejected then taken on is very inspiring, too! And I loved Julie's checklist for proposal since I'm writing one now! Thank you everyone!

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  74. Thank you for this post, Amanda. I want to be thoroughly prepared when the time comes for me to search for an agent. Blessings to you.

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  75. Interesting post, this reader learns so much from Seekerville authors! toss me into the dish please..
    Happy Birthday Seekerville

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  76. Thank you for the very helpful advice. And you can never go wrong with Amazon. Thank you for the chance to win. God bless.

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    1. I also took notes. 😉 Maybe i can use this advice someday.

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  77. Another great post on Seekerville! Please add me to the drawing. Thanks!

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  78. Always important to proofread, even if you're not a writer. I took proofreading in college (secretarial major). Please put my name in the cat dish for the drawing.

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  79. More great tips for both writers and readers. As a librarian responsible for many articles and narratives, I learned very early how important it was to proofread, proofread, and the ask someone else to check!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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  80. More great tips for both writers and readers. As a librarian responsible for many articles and narratives, I learned very early how important it was to proofread, proofread, and the ask someone else to check!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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  81. Amanda, Thanks for the great tips! I haven't had to query an agent yet, but that will be coming up in 2017.

    Please put my name in for the drawing.

    Thanks!

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  82. These are excellent points! And, please add my name to the draw.
    Jan

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  83. These are excellent points! And, please add my name to the draw.
    Jan

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  84. There is so much to being an author! These tips are sure to be so helpful. Please include me in the giveaway!

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