Agent #14 won’t know it (unless she’s been following my blog which, let’s be honest, isn’t even remotely likely) but she’s the first recipient of my new-and-improved query letter. Lucky her! I hope she appreciates it (again, not even remotely likely.) Nevertheless, it’s a big step to change your tactic mid-stream. Or is it? My tactic (i.e. my query letter) hasn’t exactly resulted in “YES PLEASE!” emails pouring into my in-box.
The one thing I am sure of is that this particular agent appreciates history. On her website she not only notes that her “fiction list includes historical fiction…” but she goes on to say how she’s written columns and articles for Solander which is the newsletter of the Historical Novelists Society and has been a keynote speaker at their conference. So this is one lady who obviously likes her historical fiction.
Every agent’s website has a section called “Submission Guidelines” in which they detail how exactly they want people like me to approach them with a potential project. Given that they get dozens and dozens of query letters each week it would, I imagine, help them to get through these submissions if they are all structured the way they want. And woe betide any foolish aspiring author if they fail to follow these guidelines to the letter. Failure to do that results in instant “No thanks!” because if you can’t follow simple instructions like these, how are you going to be able to follow instructions from editors at publishing houses who might call for drastic changes in your manuscript.
In my experience thus far, no two agencies have asked to submit your work in the same way. They all have their unique method of wanting to be approached: only emails are accepted, don’t ever email us; include the first chapter; don’t send us anything but the query letter; include a synopsis; attach a bio; all emails with attachments will be deleted; we reply to all queries; we will only get back to you if we’re interested. So it pays to take your time and follow exactly what the agency says.
The submission guidelines for this particular agency ask for the most information of any agent I’ve approached so far. They want your query letter, followed by the first ten pages of your manuscript, followed by a synopsis of the book (three to five paragraphs), followed by a bio. That’s way more than all the agents I’ve queried. In a way, that’s a plus for someone like me because if all they’ve got is your query letter and your query letter is only so-so, they’re probably going to reject you. But if your query is followed by the first ten pages of your manuscript then hopefully your writing is strong enough to show that while you may not be a whiz at crafting query letters and synopses (and let there be no mistake, it IS a craft) then your writing is given a chance to speak for itself.