Last week, I wrote about mistakes we can overlook when considering submissions. However, some mistakes we cannot ignore. Please avoid these:
The wrong word count. Sending submissions with an inappropriate word count is the most common mistake we see in the slush pile. We have no current market for a 35,000-word novel or a ready market for books of 250,000 words. The only exception would be for the author to say, “I met Maizie Editor at Big Conference, and she asked me to submit my eight-volume set of 500,000-word books through an agent, so I’m querying you.” Otherwise, please refer to publishers’ guidelines, write accordingly, and let us know what market you are targeting. We know which editors to approach, but we like to see what the author has in mind.
Spam. When we see several other agents’ names in the “To” field, we don’t feel special. We delete these queries. However, it is acceptable to submit to other agents outside of our agency when you’re looking for the right agent. Please let us know, and tell us if another agent offers you representation while we are considering your work. That knowledge gives us a chance to bow out or perhaps to offer you an agency contract as well.
Sending work that needs editing. We appreciate the honesty of writers who tell us, “I need an editor.” However, while some literary agents also work as freelance editors, we do not. If you need a freelance editor, please hire one, then approach us with your edited work.
Submissions for categories we aren’t pursuing: In the past, I wrote many books for publication. I understand the temptation to say, “I’ll submit to Agatha Agent even though she says she doesn’t take children’s picture books because my book is THAT good.” Your book may be that good. However, an agent who doesn’t have a list of editors ready to contract for books in your category is not the right agent for you. Better to submit to agents currently seeking your type of work.
We hope to hear from you!