Contacting Agents

A 5-Part Series

  1. Querying Agents
  2. Finding Agents
  3. Query Letter Example #1
  4. Contacting Agents

So you’ve read about how to write a query letter and then you wrote it. You’ve discovered how to find agents you’d like to work with. The next and final-ish step is to contact those agents.

Submissions, once you get past your anxiety and self doubt, is relatively easy. No postage and no phone calls, all you need is your manuscript and exactly what the agent requests for submission.

In each and every case, the agent you want to contact has told you exactly what they want from a submission. They may want something specific in the email’s Subject line. They may want 10 pages of your book or 50. One thing they don’t want? Attachments.

If you attach anything to an email you send an agent, they will delete it out of hand. If fact, they probably have a filter set up that deletes any emails with attachments. Don’t chance it.

Remember the list from Finding Agents? Let’s drill down into what two agents specifically require for a submission. Specifically, Rosemary Stimola who represented The Hunger Games and Joanna Volpe who represented Divergent.

Ms. Stimola’s website tells me she just wants a query letter and nothing else. In fact you don’t even need to send an email, there’s a form designed for you to fill out. Simply upload the query letter into the ‘Note’ section and you’re good.

Ms. Volpe, on the other hand, requests an email submission and her agency, New Leaf Literary, has the following request for each submission

  • Email Subject line: “Query, [Agent Name]”
  • 5 pages from your manuscript, double-spaced
    • paste the 5 pages at the end of the email, no attachments!

I read somewhere (I believe it was an agent’s website) to advise them whether or not you are submitting multiple queries. I’m sorry, who is not submitting multiple queries? This strikes me as a throwback to the golden days of publishing where agents held all the power (perhaps not such a bad thing…they’d have never allowed 50 Shades of Grey to see the light of day). If someone asks, be honest. Other than that, you’re playing the field. You’ll never find the right one unless you fish the whole of the sea.

To that end, you’re dating. I have a friend who dates as if the next date is going to be the one. Needless to say she has a terrible love life. Be skeptical. Be thoughtful. Be overt. Be as ethically slutty with your query letters as possible.

To that end, there are a lot of agents to contact and the temptation is to send out query letters to all of them. Don’t. First, it’s a lot of work following my suggestions above researching each agent and massaging your query letter for each person. Second, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Mike Sambuchino suggests sending only 6 to 8 query letters out at a go. Adjust as needed and then go for round 2!

Also, keep in mind that I’ve never worked with an agent. For slightly more refined advice, check out Jane Friedman’s article. There are tons of articles and a thousand different iterations of the same advice. Trust your gut and remember, these are people too.

Get all your ducks in a row (I recommend a spreadsheet to keep yourself sane) and get to work. Good luck!

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