How to Make Your Query Letter Stand Out to Literary Agents: 10 Tips | iWriterly

Hey Literary Nerds, I’m Meg LaTorre-Snyder
and today on iWriterly I’m here to talk to you about the 10 ways to make your submission
stand out in the query box. It’s been said that literary agents are
the gatekeepers to the traditional publishing industry. Every year agents receive thousands
of queries both solicited and unsolicited. Many agents also work full-time jobs separate
from their work at a literary agency. Needless to say, they are very busy people. As a result,
the unsolicited queries are often left to other team members from a literary agency
to read. In order for your query to reach the eyes of the literary agent, it needs to
stand out. Now, if you go on twitter and you follow some
of the literary agents, a lot of them will say “it just needs to have a strong voice.”
Although that advice sounds relatively straight forward and depressingly vague, it implies
that the agent has opened your submitted pages. However, if a query is filled with grammar
issues, plot holes, or doesn’t talk about your manuscript at all, a literary agent is
unlikely to read your manuscript pages. I’ve noticed that a lot of writers make a
lot of the same mistakes and unfortunately some of the mistakes can cost getting a request
from a literary agent for additional pages. How can you make your submission stand out?
A lot of times, it’s just understanding the submission process a little bit better. Consider
the following 10 tips when you’re submitting your next query. Tip number one, write a formal email subject
line. Many literary agencies will specify what they
want in the email subject line, but if they don’t, don’t leave it blank, don’t just say
“Query” I recommend writing Query: Title of your MANUSCRIPT, genre, Age
Group, and Attention, and whoever the literary agent is that you’re directing the query to. Tip number two. Address your query to a specific
literary agent. (And make sure to spell their name correctly.) So as many of you know, there’s this thing
called an #MSWL the hashtag on twitter, it’s a manuscript wishlist. And these literary
agents will specify what age group and genre they are interested in receiving queries from,
and ultimately representing. So when you are submitting these queries, you want to direct
them to a specific literary agent who would be interested in your manuscript. Side note,
do not address those queries to interns at an agency, um, agent apprentices and junior
agents, senior agents, those are the people that you do want to address your queries to. Tip number three, check if a literary agent
represents in your genre and age group. So this kind of ties into our last point,
which is that you want to address your query to a literary agent who is accepting in a
specific genre or age group. What do I mean by age group? That is simply middle grade,
YA, adult, they’re the groupings of the ages of the readership that your manuscript would
be applicable to, or fit in. If you submit, for example, an adult manuscript to someone
who is only accepting YA or picture books or middle grade, you will probably automatically
get a thanks but no thanks. Tip number four. Follow the submission guidelines. Now this part, in my mind, can be a little
tricky. Typically on the main submission page on the literary agency’s website, they will
detail how they want you to submit to the agency in general. However, a lot of times
on the bio pages of the literary agency’s website, they will detail how the specific
literary agents want to receive submissions. So this part could say something like, “want
attachments”, “want 5 pages”, “the first 20 pages of your manuscript”, synopsis, no synopsis,
they’ll tell you what they want. What I’ve learned, when in doubt, go with
whatever is on the specific literary agent’s page. Tip number five. Eliminate all spelling errors
and grammatical issues from your query. This one may seem a little obvious but make sure
you check your entire query before clicking send. Tip number six, list your genre, age group,
and word count in your query. So as I said before, genre and age groups are two different
things so genre is something like fantasy, thriller, or sci-fi. The topic area, or the
type of manuscript. Where as, age group are things such as middle-grade, YA, adult, so
these are the ages of the readers who would be most likely to be interested in reading
your manuscript. The way I recommend including these in your query is something such as “Game
of Thrones is an adult fantasy, complete at 100,000 words.” Or something to that extent.
Granted, we all know George R. R. Martin’s work is way longer than 100,000 words. And
THANK GOODNESS! Tip number 7, craft a story snippet that reveals
the stakes for the character and the world. So, depending on the agency’s specific guidelines,
you anywhere from one to three paragraphs to reveal this.
The things you want to include here is, things such as who the protagonist is and what his
or her desires are, the protagonist’s personal stakes, who the antagonist is, and what’s
at stake for the world at large. Additional tips, keep the number of characters
in your query at a minimum unless they are super important in revealing the overall stakes
of your story. And most importantly, do not reveal the ending of your story in your query.
The purpose of your query, and specifically the story snippet, blurb, thing, is to make
us want to read more. Tip number 8, include a brief bio at the end
of your query revealing why you are the best person to write this story. The end of the query, typically the last paragraph,
is where we get to learn a little bit more about you. Specifically your writing credentials,
and maybe a little bit about your personal life. In this paragraph, you just want to
show that you’re a credible writer, and that you’re fun to talk to. Tip number 9
Include your name, pen name, if applicable, email, twitter handle, and website link or
blog, should you have one. Tip number 10
Be nice on social media! (and in your query too.) So, in short, your social media presence is
kind of like you are marketing yourself! And so, if you’re a nice person on social media,
you know, typically speaking that means you might be a nice person in general, and nice
people are nice to work with. Because that’s nice! But in truth, in all things, if you’re kind
and patient, and understanding, that’s what really makes you stand out in the query box. Thanks for tuning into this episode of iWriterly,
where we talked about the ten ways to make your submission stand out in the query box.
If you like what you saw, subscribe, like, comment, tell me what you want to hear about
next time. And, I think that’s it! Keep Writing!!!

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