This Week’s 10 Query Tips from a Literary Assistant — 05/09/14

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

As usual, this week’s tips come from my Twitter feed (@LaneHeymont). Enjoy!


1) There’s no reason to use the copyright symbol (©) in your query or on your manuscript. When your pen hits paper, your work is copyrighted. That is law in the United States of America. However, you might hear some people saying “it gives you more protection in court if you ‘actually’ file a copyright” and while that’s true, consider the following:

A.  If we wanted to represent your book we would represent your book, not steal it.

B. We don’t need to steal your story/plot, because we are not writers. We don’t tell our clients what to write, we discuss and critique, but it’s the writer’s job to write.

C. IF, and that’s a big IF, someone stole your plot/story/characters, you would not know unless their work became SUPER DUPER Life of Pi famous. Which was plagiarized from the work of a Brazilian Jewish man.

Get it? Good. #querytip


2) Know what is new in your genre. What are people reading? What are the trends? Read reviews. This will help you know your market and will allow you the knowledge to properly engage with your contemporaries. If the new hot thing is JULIET MEETS A DORK, which everyone has read, it’s good to know what it’s about. Even if it’s just from reviews.

Be. In. Your. Market.  #querytip


3) This is a tweet from agent Sara Megibow (who I suggest you follow) of Nelson Literary Agency. 108 queries since 8 am, so as agents and I often say, “we are busy.” It’s just the facts of life. Agenting is often a 24/7 job. Aren’t you busy when you’re at work? Well, agents are usually always working. With current clients. With editors. With queries. With conventions and/or traveling, etc.

Be respect of their time. Period. #querytip



4) I said something to this effect last week, but it seemed lost in my wording, so I thought I’d let someone else explain said #querytip. Melissa Ann Singer, senior editor at Tor/Forge Books said it perfectly:



5) This next tip comes from a pal of mine and agency client Cecy Robson, though it’s a #writetip, it’s GREAT! Be descriptive. 



6) Don’t send your query out when you finish it, or even an hour after. Take a break and come back to it later. Double check everything. Spelling, grammar, format, length, sentence structure, descriptions, conciseness, everything. #querytip 


7) Great names often equal memorable characters. I just finished a book where two major secondary characters were named Tim and Jake. Still, I have no idea which one is which. Why? Because those names are as cookie-cutter as they come. Now, if their names were Eldon and Loren … I’d have remembered them. I’m not saying those names are GREAT or even fit into a contemporary world, per se. But, there are plenty of contemporary names that stick out and help readers remember characters. Who can forget a name like Lane, and hey, I live in THE contemporary world!  #querytip  #writetip


8) Don’t spend the precious space in your ONE PAGE query explaining how fabulous your book and/or writing is. SHOW us with a well-written query and even better writing. #querytip


9) It shouldn’t take you 30 words to tell us your manuscript’s word count. Brevity shows you possess insight into what is important (when it comes to writing) and what is not. It also shows that you have the ability to self-edit. #querytip


10) Use great care and respect when writing about another culture. Historical and fantasy novels sometimes fall back on a heinous trope called the “magical N-gro” trope. The idea is that a mystical, non-white character reveals something important and/or helps the white protagonist along his or her quest. It’s offensive, cliché, and shows a lack of insight and understanding of characterization. Not to mention it has its roots in Colonialism and is plain, old racist. #querytip #writetip


I apologize if this week’s edition feels like it has too many query tips from sources outside myself, but when you stumble upon great tips, you need to give credit where credit is due!

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