A year ago, an amazing person offered representation for my novel, Death’s Island. That person is Agent Bree Ogdenof D4EO Literary. To celebrate a year of working together, I am honored to feature a special guest post by her. So, sit back, enjoy, and without further ado, here’s Bree!
When my lovely and very talented client, Kelsey, asked me to guest post on her blog, I jumped at the chance; anything for this girl. But also because I love having the chance to demystify “the agent” for prospective writers.
Agents. Ugh, am I right? To some of you we may seem like Herakles, the gatekeeper of Olympus. How do you get past us? How do you gain our approval? We are so severe. So picky. So unattainable.
False. We are people looking for great literature.
Have you ever picked up a book in the bookstore and flipped through it thinking, who the hell let this thing get published? Well, we are trying to save you and everyone else from having to go through that experience. Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “But you ARE picky, and you ARE so hard to get through to.” So what I want to do today is just give you some extremely simple tips that will help you get your foot in the door. After that, it’s your writing that does the rest. And that … well that is something for a completely different post … or class.
Bree’s Tips on How to Kick Down an Agent’s Door:
1. Never send attachments in your query letter. We won’t open them and your letter is wasted. I was recently sent a query that simply said: “Please see attached query.” And there was a word file attached to the email. I’m not going to risk getting a virus on my computer by opening a strange file. And it’s quite unfortunate because that could have been a best seller.
2. Of course the meat of your query letter will be a form letter. We do not expect you to customize your entire letter for each agent. That would take a lifetime. However, it will help you immensely if you customize parts of the letter. First of all: the salutation. You definitely want to address the agent by their name, not “Dear Ma’am or Sir,” or “Dear Literary Agent.” Let me continue this idea in the next point…
3. Know who you are submitting to. Do not just throw things against the wall to see if they stick. One of the best queries I’ve ever received mentioned that she knew I had a masters in journalism and she also had a degree in journalism. She felt we had a lot in common and that I would have a deeper understanding of her manuscript because of that. It’s nice to know that my queriers have read interviews with me. Not because of ego, but because it shows me that they are submitting their MS to me because they know it is suited for me personally. This way, they are not wasting any one’s time. (So there is more room for customization here.)
4. Short and sweet. Not too short, but please do not write a 1000 word synopsis of your book. We’ll get bored and move on. A lot of the time, less is more when it comes to a query letter. Leave us wondering. Leave us with a little bit of a cliffhanger. That always makes me want to ask for the MS.
5. Bio at the END of your query. I want to know if the MS is worth it before I read about you. That may sound rude, but I’m getting 20-30 queries a day and I don’t have time to read all about you and what inspired you to write your novel before I even know what the novel is about.
6. Speaking of Bios. Don’t go crazy. We don’t need to know every article you’ve had published in college or every internship you’ve worked. Give us the meat. The goods. The really impressive stuff. And if there is no meat to your bio, show us your charm and leave it at that. You are not kicked out of the game if you have never published anything. Maybe you have a background in marketing or communications, something that will help you as an author. These are things to mention.
In the end, you want your query letter to be succinct, smart, charming, informative and gracious. We LOVE those query letters.
I’ll finish up in a second. You don’t need to read me ramble all day. But real quick: Kelsey asked me an interesting question that I feel compelled to answer. She asked, “[What] books [did] you read when you were a kid and how [did] they inspire you and the manuscripts you’re interested in representing.
I thought I would answer this question in case any of you are interested in querying me. I read dark, quirky, and fantastical books as a child. I read R.L. Stine, Ayn Rand, Lois Lowry, Roald Dahl, Edward Gorey, Henry James, H.G. Wells, Madeleine L’Engle, and Norton Juster. This is the literature I love. It is what inspired me to represent children’s literature. If you feel you have a manuscript along the lines of any of these authors, I would absolutely LOVE to see it.
Thank you to Kelsey for letting me take up space on her blog. You can learn more about me and the publishing industry at www.agentbree.wordpress.com.
All best to you in your writing endeavors and with your dreams! Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.