Approaching an agent with your manuscript is an exciting, yet nerve-wracking experience. It’s also incredibly competitive.
According to a recent article, on average the best agents receive approximately 1,500 queries a month and only offer representation to 6 new clients per year.
Those are some pretty low odds but the reason I’m mentioning this is not to put you off, but to help you pitch your manuscript to maximise your chances. Here are 10 things to avoid when pitching.
1. Submitting work the agency does not represent
If you’re submitting a children’s story, make sure the agency in question actually takes children’s authors on. You need to research the agency and the agent (see my next point). A good starting point is here.
2. Using generic greetings
Starting your submission with: To whom it may concern is unlikely to give a good first impression. Research your agent and address them accordingly.
3. Ignoring submission guidelines
Once you’ve identified an agency, you need to submit according to their guidelines. Most agencies will have these on their website. Follow them to the letter!
4. Pitching multiple books in the same query
Asking a potential agent which manuscript they like best is unlikely to do you any favours. Submit one manuscript and give it your all.
5. Starting your novel with a cliche or long descriptive passages describing the weather
Many agents will make a decision about representing you after reading just the first paragraph of your manuscript. Make sure your first page is the most captivating, engaging piece of work you have ever produced.
6. Submitting an unfinished manuscript
Finish your novel before submitting because you don’t ever want to be in that hard-won position where an agent asks to read the rest of it AND YOU DON’T HAVE IT!
7. Submitting with typos and grammatical errors
If I have to elaborate on this one, then you really shouldn’t be submitting in the first place.
8. Pitching (or bad-mouthing!) on Twitter
Twitter is a great place to have conversations with the publishing world but don’t use it as a place to pitch or vent. It will definitely come back and bite you.
9. Stalking for a response
Literary agents are busy and it can take a long time to get a response. Don’t be that person who emails/calls everyday for an update - it’s sure to be annoying.
10. Asking for an explanation about why your work was rejected
Most agents don’t have the time to provide detailed feedback on your work. If you do receive an email saying your manuscript isn’t suitable, then at least you got a response! It’s disappointing but the best thing you can do is respond professionally and politely. The industry is small and you never know when you may have the opportunity to interact again.
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