Newbie Writing Mistakes Monday–OBEY THE AGENCY RULES

I wanted to do this series as a vlog, but since I have no clue how to rig that up, for now, I’ll use my words.

Mistakes…if you’re anywhere along this writing road, you’ve made some. I’ve made quite a few. Today, I just wanted to talk about one newbie mistake that should be quite self-evident.

Don’t ignore the guidelines of the agency you’re querying.

There was a recent post at Steve Laube’s blog about this,

When I first started querying, I laughed in the face of danger. More like, I laughed in the face of agency guidelines. If they’d ask for a mere query, I’d think What’s wrong with sending them the first chapter, pasted along with my query? After all, that first chapter is KILLER. Shoot, why don’t I just send those first three chapters? That’ll blow their socks off.

WRONG. Problem is, some agents won’t even open a document that has a bunch of stuff pasted into it. Query-length stuff, yes, but not those first chapters.

And what about those agencies that requested a proposal, along with your initial query e-mail?

Since I wasn’t quite sure that my make-shift proposal looked right, I’d just send the query and sample chapters. I figured that once the agents took my writing prowess seriously, they’d beg to see that proposal. At that point, I would grant them access to my (feeble attempt at a) proposal.

And synopses!? Don’t get me started. Somewhere I’d read online that a synopsis could be six pages. Which turned into about twelve pages, double-spaced. I give kudos to any agent who managed to sludge through that lengthy attempt at capturing every last one of my lovely characters, even the not-so-important ones.

(Hint–For your synopsis, just focus on those MAIN characters, since the MC and his/her closest peeps are the ones we’ll be following through your book).

I wish I could say that I’m now a querying/editing/writing expert, but for goodness’ sake, I learn something new almost every day of this arduous writing journey.

But please save yourself some newbie time and trouble by following, to the best of your ability, those agency guidelines. Agents will notice your respect for their requirements–after all, they’ve put some thought into the exact things they want to see from you (and *understatement of the year*, each agency is unfortunately very different!).

They might not find your MC “compelling” or your storyline “something they can represent at this time,” but at least they’ll see that you’re willing to work with guidelines to get your stuff out there.

***Have any of you, my faithful followers, blatantly (or inadvertently) ignored agency guidelines? Did it work out for you or not?

12 thoughts on “Newbie Writing Mistakes Monday–OBEY THE AGENCY RULES

  1. Well, Sarah, there are always mistakes to make for any of us, like…say…posting your blogpost a day early? Like on a Sunday when it plainly says MONDAY MISTAKES? *see my blogpost* Hee. You'll do just fine on the querying. My mistakes typically stemmed from overblown thoughts of my writing brilliance. I found out quickly that my brilliance wouldn't get noticed, if it was couched in a break-all-the-rules mentality! You're two steps ahead already, by following the guidelines!

  2. I did a vast amount of reading before dipping my toes into the shark-laden query pool, so I was painfully aware of the need to follow guidelines. And, yes, every agency is different! Oh well, I guess it helps keep us on our toes and makes sure we tailor each query to the agent – less chance of an inadvertent copy/paste error :)I take it you've already discovered Query Shark for advice on query letters?And the synopsis is a minefield! Some want a 1-page, some 2 pages, some a "detailed" synopsis (which I guess is where those 6 pages came from). I did have some links to synopsis-writing advice somewhere, but it boils down to: you need several different-length versions ready & waiting to go.

  3. Yes, Botanist, sounds like you're someone who thinks things through–I wasn't aware of the shark-laden waters of the query pool when I started out. Yes, good example w/the varying synopsis lengths. I think you need to have quite the MYRIAD of resources on hand…query, synopses of varying lengths, proposal, log line, first chapter, first 3 chapters, first 55 pages…the list goes on…

  4. I think I once forgot to include the sample chapter. The agent replied asking for a partial and then I never heard back from her. It's probably the same outcome as if I'd sent her the partial to start with, except this time I know she liked the query at least.

  5. I like to "think" I've done a good job on following guidelines, but I'm not always certain I have. Recently I found an agency that said something along these lines: Please do not send an exclusive query because queries are to be shared. Then they give you a varity of agents that work there to chose to send a query to. I'm totally confused…do I address the query to a certain agent or address it to the entire agency? What does exclusive query mean?I'm totally confused on this one, if anyone has a suggestion I'm open to hearing it. Thanks.(I like what you said about proposals, mine is so amateurish, not matter how hard I work on it)

  6. TC, my friend! What I THINK that means is that they want you to go ahead and send queries to other agencies, not to various agents within their particular agency. I've read multiple places that you only query ONE agent within a specific agency (since agents often collaborate, anyway).That way, you're not waiting on the line for just one agency response. You've got your query out to other agencies, so you can wait on multiple responses. Hmmm…I detect a theme here…WAITING. Sigh.And I'm getting better at proposals, I'm ecstatic to say! But I must've revamped mine at least seven times. Not fun, but worth it when you feel you've finally nailed it. You'll get there, you hard-working writer, you!

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