10 #QueryTips and #WriteTips from a Literary Assistant — 04/18/14

I’m a literary assistant at The Seymour Agency. Our agents, Mary Sue Seymour andNicole Resciniti represent a range of genre: Christian/Inspirational, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Women’s Lit, Romance.

Recently I’ve been tweeting some #writetips, so 10 #QueryTips has now been expanded to include those tips for writers. As usual, this week’s tips come from my Twitter feed (@LaneHeymont). Enjoy!


1) Do NOT wait until an agent requests it to write your synopsis. Synopses will attempt to foil you at every step, so have one ready! #querytip


2) In response to tip #1 I received the above question, and what a great question! My answer — and what I personally do — was to have three synopses ready. I usually write out a full length one (averaging 8-10 pages), a 1 page edition, and a 2 page edition, because you never know which one an agent will request! #querytip


3) It’s okay if you don’t have any writing credits, but there’s no need to tell us that. Focus on your book, not what you haven’t done as a writer. #querytip


4) Try using an email service that has the least chance of being hacked. Yahoo is notoriously susceptible to hacking (ask my colleagues and I!). Gmail is a good email service to use. Choose one that is as secure as possible. Sending spam to agents/publishers stinks. I know. #querytip


5) When querying, KNOW what genre your book fits into! You might think it’s difficult to determine, but it’s not. I struggled tagging genres for my book The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff, but I decided to pitch it to publishers as historical fantasy, and it worked! My problem was, six years ago, I didn’t know my genres well enough. Don’t make that mistake. #querytip #writetip


6) Words to avoid when addressing your query: “Hi”, “Hey”, “To Whom it May Concern”, “Dear Editor/Agent”. Basically anything impersonal. A simple “Dear Mr./Ms. Jones” is perfect! Don’t use “Mrs.” even if you “know” an agent is married, because for all you know they could be in the process of a divorce. “Ms.” is standard in business. #querytip


7) There’s no reason to send an author photo with your query. It’s pointless. Unless you’re a real satyr. Then I’m interested. #querytip


8) Don’t talk bad about agents and/or the publishing industry. My bosses are AGENTS, I’m IN the industry, and you’re trying to get IN the industry. #querytip


9) I know rejection after rejection after rejection begins to wear on your nerves and weigh heavy on your spirit, and even make you consider giving up. You might start saying one or more of the following:

“It’s unfair you need to be famous to get a deal.”

“You have to write something that’s part of the latest trend to be published.”

“Editors are only buying crap now.”

These are all fallacies and cop outs doing a disservice to yourself and every writer and editor out there.

Just because you don’t like glittery vampires who stalk their girlfriends left and right does not mean it’s crap. MILLIONS have drunk it up. It’s not crap to them, and perception is reality.

A lot of “nobodies” have made it huge. No offense to the following, but … Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, J.R. Ward, and Stephen King all became mega-famous and started out as just some people wanting to get published.

Trends come and go. By the time you write, edit, query, find an agent, sell, and publish your vampire romance people might be so annoyed with it that they’d rather use it Kleenex. So, follow trends at your peril. #querytip #writetip


10) Here’s the reality, the market is becoming saturated because everyone and their dog wants to and can now write and publish a book. If I opened a publisher tomorrow, by Monday I’d have dozen of submissions, most of whom have done no research into the craft and industry.

If I wanted to go into banking (Mortgage, Commercial Loan Credit Analyst, etc) and walked into a bank right now to apply for a job, you think they would hire me? Of course not. I’ve done no research on any type of banking, the industry, or mortgages. Plenty of people with no degrees are in those jobs right now.

Point is, you cannot expect to find an agent, sell a manuscript, and get published by the seat of your pants. Study the craft. Study genres. Read the kind of books you want to write. Study how to write a query. Practice writing queries. Study how to write a synopsis. Practice writing synopses. Never stop writing.

Guess what, it’s hard work. Did you really expect to break into a flooded and difficult industry just by writing a book? Do. Your. Homework. #querytip #writetip


That’s it for this week’s query and writing tips. Thanks for joining in, and remember to check back next week!