5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Work from Ending Up in an Agent’s Trash

By on May 12, 2016

Getting published is hard. All writers, however novice or experienced they are will be well aware of this. Of course, if you have no luck trying to get your novel published by approaching publishing houses yourself, there is always the option of trying to find an agent who will represent your work.

Due to the overwhelming number of manuscripts submitted to them, many publishing houses choose to only receive those that come via an agent. The agent acts as a filter. They are professionals who only accept work if they believe they can get a publishing house to accept it - otherwise they won’t make any money themselves.

Publishers can rest assured that professional agents will only send them work they believe is of high quality, and will be of interest and relevance to them. They build good relationships with editors who trust that if they receive a manuscript from that particular agent, it’s because it’s worth reading.

However, because of this, agents are almost as difficult to secure as getting published by a publishing house directly. Agents usually work on a percentage basis, so will take their cut of your book sales when it goes to print. Having an agent may mean less money for you, but the likelihood of seeing your work on the shelves is greatly increased if you do manage to find one.

The unfortunate statistic is that 96% of authors who submit their work to agents are rejected by them. While, as ever, you have to have writing talent in order for an agent to even consider you, there are also some common issues that see many potentially great authors rejected. Here are some of them:

Not following the submission guidelines

This is a basic, yet hugely common mistake. Failure to adhere to an agents submission guidelines means your work may not even be read. If an agent requires a query letter, write one. If they ask your manuscript to be formatted in a certain way, make sure you do it. If they only want the first three chapters, don’t send the whole book - no matter how good you think it is.

Having confidence in your work is great, but as a new author don’t think that you are above the requirements that an agent has set out, even if you don’t agree with them. Read the submission guidelines in detail and make sure that you have checked absolutely everything is in order before you contact them. Don’t assume all agents have the same guidelines. If you don’t bother to research and follow each set of guidelines exactly, you are simply setting yourself up for failure.

Bad query letters

A query letter is usually the first route you go down to make contact with your potential agent. Writing a good query letter takes time and skill. You need to provide all the information an agent needs to make an initial decision, but you also need to pay attention to the word count, and, of course, grab their attention and make it interesting to them.

Don’t brag about how great your book is, show them by telling them what your story is about - if it’s good, they’ll know.

Don’t write out every single thing that happens, summarise the story, and include all the main points of action, but keep it succinct. If you start rambling they’ll lose interest and with it the belief that your book is any good.

At the end of your letter include some details about you, but only ones that are relevant to your book. If you have any notable qualifications or writing awards, mention them, if not, try to sell yourself as an author. Finish off with why you believe your novel would be a great fit for that particular agent.

Your spelling and grammar is poor

Your wouldn’t apply for a job without paying close attention to your spelling and grammar would you? Well writing a letter to an agent is just the same. Be professional, not colloquial. Don’t abbreviate, and make sure you have triple checked your grammar, punctuation and spelling.

If you can, hire a professional to read over your letter and any chapters you are submitting for an extra set of eyes to ensure everything is in order.

Saying too much

Agents aren’t looking for a sales pitch. Nor do they need to know your thoughts about marketing, sales, or book cover design . If you are too pushy this will be a red flag to an agent. Publishers make these kinds of decisions - it's their job, so you simply need to leave it to the professionals.

The good news is that there are a huge number of agents in the business you can submit your work to. Patience, persistence and perseverance are all key. You might have to develop a thick skin, but by following these tips you give yourself the best chance of an agent taking you on.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

About Ty Cohen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *