How Do I Get An Agent’s Attention?

1426616739108I’m almost finished with revising my manuscript and plan to get a few well qualified friends to give it a final read through. Their job will be to make sure it is believable, there are no plot holes, and of course, it’s an interesting-grab you by the seat of your pants-type of book.

So like many of you, I’ve been surfing the web looking for information on how to get an agent’s attention. With all of the queries they receive, what can I do to make my manuscript stand out?

Remember it’s not personal:

  • Agents know there is a lot of emotions tied to the time and effort you put into finishing your manuscript. You have to be able to separate the emotion when submitting your work and see it for what it is-a business transaction.
  • Don’t be funny or try to do something cute-like writing from your main characters POV. Remember this is business. Let your great writing blow them away.
  • A query letter is a business letter. Think of it as a cover letter when applying for a job.

Have a unique story:

There are no new stories, just different ways to tell them. What have you done to change your story and make it stand out?

  • You need a book that’s more than just well-written. You could string perfect sentences with zero grammatical errors, which is a good start, but it had better have a unique twist.
  • No one wants to read a book they have read before. You may have changed the names and locations, but unless you added that unique twist and shook some things up, an agent won’t be interested in your work.
  • Find a unique take on a formula that works.

The hook, The book, and the cook:

Barbara Poelle uses this line to describe the ingredients of a great query letter.  The hook is one sentence that describes what your story is about. Yes, you did read that right. I said one sentence. You can check out Publishers Lunch for examples of great loglines. The book is four or five sentences that provide more detail about your story. The cook is you. Just as in any job interview, the agent wants to know about the person they are considering as a potential client.

It has to be love:

Would you want to marry someone who is kind of in love with you, or who is head over heels crazy about you? I thought this was a great analogy for literary agents and your book.

  • If a literary agent is going to represent your work to a publisher, then they have to love it.
  • Don’t be discouraged with a rejection, remember agents are people too, and their likes and dislikes may be different from yours. They are doing you a favor by rejecting you. It’s hard to give 100% to something you aren’t fully sold on.
  • Query literary agents who represent the authors of the books you love to read. Chances are, they will love your style of writing as well.

Remember to be professional, and don’t be discouraged if you receive a rejection. Remind yourself you are waiting for someone who loves your work as much as you do.

There is so much information on query letters and finding an agent. I plan to continue this discussion in my next blog.

I would love to hear from you. If you have any suggestions, or better yet, something that has worked for you in the past, please share.

-Jan R





How Do I Get An Agent’s Attention?