Some Things to Keep in Mind BEFORE Querying an Agent (Part 3)

We’ve come to the end of a long journey, my friends.  Thank you for sticking with me this far.  I’ve got some last points to make, and then I’ll let you be on your merry way.  So let’s get to it!  The finale!

#8 – When we tell you we’re swamped – we mean it!

This is basically a reiteration of what I said in my previous post, but with more focus on the rejection letters you will inevitably receive.  Most rejection letters will include an apology that goes something like, “While your book is no doubt wonderful, we have decided to pass as this time.  Please understand that we receive a great deal of submissions each day, yadda yadda.”  Just wanted to let you know…we mean it when we say that.  When we reject you, it really doesn’t mean that your book is bad and that you should stop trying.  That being said, there are some things you should keep in mind…

#9 – Do YOU like your book?

How do I say this?  Of course you have to like your book if you believe in it enough to send it out to agents, but…have you read similar titles?  Have you compared your book to other books you like and seen if it holds up to the already published books’ high standards?  They say you are your own worst critic.  I think that’s good.  It’s when you’re your own biggest fan that you run into trouble.  If you’re unable to cast a critical eye on your own work, play devil’s advocate and anticipate the criticisms that agents are going to give, then your book probably isn’t quite ready to be unleashed on the world.

When I talked about doing your research in my last post, and having other people read your work, I really, really meant it.  Because we are busy, and we don’t want to have our time wasted by the first 100 pages of literary nonsense that fell out of your brain.  It’s harsh, but it’s true.  A lot of people think agents are there to do your critiquing and revising for you, but that’s just not right.  We can’t take on a book unless it’s as close to finished as it can possibly get without the help of a professional editor.  Our jobs are on the line if your book doesn’t sell, so we can’t take on a project that only has the potential for being good.  Because there’s no guarantee that the author will be receptive to our criticism, and, even if they are, they still might not be able to make the changes we want to see.

And finally…

#10 – How is your book different from the hundreds of thousands that are already out there?

When agents like a book, they have to go through the same process that authors do – querying.  Only agents query the publishers, and the publishers aren’t keen on taking on every project that gets sent their way.  So we have to know why this book is unique and different and guaranteed to sell a million copies.  Which means you have to know all that, and you have to tell us!  When you do your research and find other similar titles, you have to tell us that you’ve looked at them, and that yours is different because it has/does/includes____________________, which none of those other books have done.  Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to be included in the query, though it wouldn’t hurt, but you should be prepared to answer those questions in case they’re asked.  Especially if you know that your book is really, really similar to, say, the Sherlock Holmes series.  We’re going to want to know how you’re different from a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wannabe, and you’d better be prepared with a better answer than, “My book takes place in present day.”

That’s it!  We’re done!  Hooray!  I hope I was somewhat helpful.

Word of the Day: Finale (n) – The last piece, division, or movement of a concert, opera, or composition.

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