Tag Archives: literary agent

the Non-submission

so it turns out that mine eyes/brain have deceived me, and it was actually Suzie Townsend – another agent I’ve queried in the past (who according to The Rejection Book was very personable, but not the most tactful) – who is actively seeking submissions.

I considered submitting to Susannah Taylor anyway, as I plan to do it sometime, but my own experience of premature submissions has cautioned to wait until I feel that I’ve poured absolutely everything into the redraft.


a really great rejection letter

Susannah Taylor from the Richard Henshaw Group just went right to the top of my desirable agents list.

Her rejection letter left me feeling invigorated and inspired and like I might actually be able to do this. Quite a feat, no? It makes me grateful that I was already so far along the rejection letters road when I got it, so that I could really appreciate it.

I won’t copy it in here, because I’m not quite sure about the copyright issues with that, but just the gist:

she gave a comprehensive critique of the piece and went very specifically into the reasons why she didn’t think she would be able to sell it on the market.

She was very encouraging about the writing itself, said she thought I was a “wonderful writer” and that she would like to see other things from me in the future (when you have a pile on your desk as big as the regular agent, you don’t go saying this unnecessarily).

When I replied to thank her, she replied to my reply, saying that nos are hard and it’s great to know her critique was read the way she intended it.

She has the amazing knack of making it feel like a great favour that I let her read my stuff. Again, considering how busy agents are and how many thousands of manuscripts they read and reply to, this is no mean feat.

And lastly, she represents Elizabeth Hoyt. If you’ve read any EH, this fact speaks for itself. If you haven’t, your life has a big EH hole in it, and you don’t even know it yet.

how to write a query letter

First: what is a query letter?

It’s the short letter/email you send to either agents or editors to see whether they would be interested in seeing your manuscript. Some agents/editors will ask for a certain amount of chapters with the query, but they will outline this very clearly on their website.

Which leads me to the first piece of advice: Read every agent/editor’s guidelines carefully and make sure you follow them exactly. These are busy people, and they ask for things a certain way for a reason.

Now you may be wondering why you should listen to advice from a random blogger like me – good question!

I spent months researching query letters before sending a whole lot of them out. Every agent I’ve heard back from so far has requested pages, which means that, totally separate to my manuscript, my query letters are doing exactly what they’re meant to. So take it or leave it, this is what i’ve learnt:

A query letter should be no more than a page long (they sometimes say 1-2 pages, but trust me, they mean 1 page) and should roughly follow this format:

intro – begin by telling them why you’re querying them specifically. They like to know you’ve done your research and that you haven’t just randomly picked them. (And hey, a little flattery never goes amiss!) Also state the title of your book, its genre and word-count (to the nearest thousand). Ask for representation. You can briefly go into why you think your book would work well on their list etc, but definitely be straight-forward here about what you want. Like I said, these people are busy.

hook line – this is where you need to sum up your book in one line…I know, easy peasy! This will probably take you a while, but it’s very important to have this one line that intrigues them. Mine was: “The most awkward possible place for a duke to meet the love of his life is in her bed…when he’s in hiding dressed as a woman.” It doesn’t tell you any plot specifics but it gives a good idea of what drives it.

blurb – don’t give a synopsis of your novel here. You want to write a one paragraph blurb of your novel, just like what you’d find on the back of a book. If the blurb would make you want to read that novel, it’ll make the agent/editor feel the same. I had a lot of trouble with this part and what I found really helpful was to read lots of romance novel blurbs until I had a good feeling for the tone/construction of them. Do the same with whatever genre your book falls into. Keep rewriting/reading aloud/showing to friends until you’re happy with it.

bio – introduce yourself here, but don’t waffle on. They want to know anything that relates to writing, eg. any previous works published, degrees in writing, other experience. If you’ve never been published just be up front without making a big deal about it or in any way belittling yourself. This is very important. They’re looking for a professional, positive attitude. Show that you know a bit about the market, eg. which books are similar to yours, which publishers you’re interested in. (Not necessarily essential, but shows you’ve done your research.)

sign off – make sure you thank them for taking the time to read your submission!

I was very glad in the end that I worked on my query for a couple of months, because I knew I had made it as good as I was able. Having said that, it’s so important to actually send your queries off! Agents/publishers are looking for potential, not a perfectly polished letter.

And this sounds a bit obvious, but I think we sometimes forget that good writing sells itself. Motivation and perseverance are a huge part of becoming successful as a writer, as is the ability to manoeuvre bureaucracy (such as writing a perfect query!). But if good writing lands on an agent/editor’s desk, they are going to be interested. It’s what their work is all about.

So go for it! Get your work out there, get people looking at it and giving you feedback on it. For me, finding out about query letters was a revelation – it was the leg-up into the murky world of publishing. I could never imagine, before, how I could possibly go from little old me writing away at home, to published-author me. Well, this is how.

Literary agent Kristin Nelson has an excellent section on her website about writing query letters, with a link to her blog discussion looking at specific query letters she was impressed by. I highly recommend visiting it!