Hook that Agent!


Hooks

(Image by lovestruck. via Flickr)

On Tuesday I posted on The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel where I told you there were two words that struck fear into a writer’s stalwart heart: Synopsis and Query. I posted on how I write up a synopsis and promised you that today I would post on the second part of that post.

Query 101

This brings me back to knowing your peers. Your WIP is finished and is perfectly edited. It is submission time. First you look for an agent. Do you approach any agent? Do you hold a lucky draw for the agent that will love your work? If you submitted your YA fantasy to an agent that specialised in medical thrillers, do you think your bait would take? In all probability, even if the agent is intrigued, the agent will reject your WIP. So how do you know which agent to submit to?

 

 You research. You compare. You do your homework. It is safe to be said that the largest accomplishment of actually finishing your WIP is the hardest part of writing. Suffice to say, the creative end of the process is basically complete but now the business end of the process begins. Your precious WIP that you have spent hours of grueling energy over is now just a “product” in the “shop of publishing“.

 

 You have made a choice on which agent you will be pitching to. Now comes the query letter and the submission. 

 

This query letter is your first rung on the sales game. You have to consider that your prospective agent has very little time to waste on reading every submission on the “slush – or unknown writer’s – pile”. So this is your chance to sell your novel.

 

  In this query letter it is important that you not think like a writer but that you think like a salesman

 

 

If you are planning on securing a literary agent for your work, you will need to know the ins and outs of queries. Agencies are very helpful in that they put up submission guidelines on their website telling you how they want you to submit to them. Each agency has an individual approach to submissions but one thing they all share in common is they want to be hooked by a great query.

So the question is: How do you Hook that Agent?

or should the question rather be:

How NOT to Hook that Agent?

  • Don’t ignore the submission guidelines on the agent’s website.

  • Do not submit the incorrect genre to an agent.

  • Do not query a manuscript that you have not completed and polished.

  • Do not address your letter with: Dear Sir/Madam / To whom it may concern / Dear Agent

  • Don’t bribe the agent with food/alcohol/vouchers/money.

  • Don’t tell the agent your life story starting when you were four and started reading.

  • Don’t tell the agent that your family and your friends think you have the next bestseller in your hands.

  • Don’t “pretty” your query email by inserting pictures, font colours and/or emoticons.

  • If it is a manual query: don’t send on pretty pink paper with stickers on.

  • Do not write a 10 page essay as a query letter.

  • Do not include attachments or links to Dropbox (or any other online storage facility) where they can download your novel.

Now: How do I HOOK that Agent?

  • Do your homework by checking out the agent’s website/blog.

  • Always follow the Agent’s submission guidelines.

  • In an email query: In the subject write – Query: (insert your ms title)

  • Use the standardized 12 point for font size.

  • Personalise your query letter by addressing the Agent by their name.

  • Write a strong first sentence hook.

  • Always include your title / word count / genre.

  • Write 1-2 paragraphs on the main premise of your manuscript.

  • Write 1-2 paragraphs on yourself: Give only the relevant writing credits/background that is pertinent to the story you are submitting.

  • End by thanking them for their time and consideration.

  • If indicated by their submission guidelines, include your 1 page synopsis.

  • Always check your grammar and use spell-check.

  • Keep the letter professional, clear and concise.

    If your query is not successful. No matter what response you receive: Do not take it personally. Respond professionally and courteously.


Remember, you are using this query letter as a cover letter, not as a resume or a short story on yourself, to sell the Agent on your Manuscript. This is not an opportunity that you want to miss because you have not done your homework on either the Agent or how to write queries. I like to think of a query letter like a short advertisement.

It must entice, intrigue and grab the Agent.

The query is important because within the first few lines the Agent will decide if they want to know more about either the manuscript or the writer or not. 

This is your first impression. No matter what you think, First Impressions can happen only ONCE and it is ALWAYS the first impression that counts.

Make this First Impression be the BEST Selling tool for your manuscript. 


Related articles

The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel | Part 1 (kimkoning.wordpress.com)

Synopsis: Are you in or out of Sync? (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)

Publishing your book: Be market savvy. Be reader savvy. (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)

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