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Common Mistakes Writers Make When Approaching Literary Agents

Writers who finish their books are eager to get these published. They rush into searching for literary agents who can get their books a contract and would gladly collaborate with them. However, it takes time and a series of steps before an agent allows a writer to present his/her book. Avoid these 11 mistakes writers make when approaching literary agents:

Informal query letter: Writers should be polite and formal in their query letter to literary agents. They should treat it like an interview where the agent gets a first impression about them. Letters should be printed in black ink with readable font such as Times New Roman. Avoid artistic and informal looking fonts like Comic Sans MS.

Grammar and tense errors: Nothing turns off a literary agent like a query letter with errors. Ask someone professional to proofread your letter before sending it to an agent.

Personal information overload: The writer should only include relevant information such as his/her professional details and previous experiences related to the book’s topic. Unnecessary information like interests and family history should be left out. The brief description should be placed on the last page of the manuscript.

Acting like a newbie: First time authors make a big deal that it’s their first book and they have no previous writing experience. The literary agent already has an idea about this; there’s no need to highlight your lack of experience.

Book presentation overload: Do not overwhelm the literary agent by mentioning other books you’ve written, or that you have written a 4-book series. Focus on one book at a time. Present only the book you want to get published.

Shoddy presentation: Take extra care of the letter and manuscript you intend to send to the literary agent. Make sure it is not crumpled or the ink hasn’t smudged. Insert the files in a clean envelope to make it presentable.

Two-page or more query letter: Keep your query letter short but informative. Fit your proposal into a 1-page letter. Avoid writing multiple page letters. Remember the agent reads many query letters from other writers so find a way to make yours stand out.

Preempting the literary agent’s action: Don’t get too excited and say things like, “This book will make a good movie.” Just focus on presenting your book. Do not suggest actions to an agent; you will only annoy the agent and eliminate your chance of working with him/her.

Flattery: Another trick that doesn’t work among agents is flattery. They can easily tell when a writer is trying to get their approval by saying things like, “I really admire your work. I hope you can handle my book soon.” It’s tacky and unprofessional.

Find the right agent for your genre: Research about the literary agent and the kind of genres he/she represents. 

Annoying follow-ups: It’s fine to send a follow-up email to an agent after two weeks and ask for feedback. However, avoid calling the agent’s office on a daily basis to ask if your manuscript has been evaluated. Be considerate. If the agent likes your book, he/she will contact you immediately.

Hopefully you will avoid making these 11 mistakes that writers make when approaching literary agents. Good luck in finding the right agent for your book!