Do’s and Don’ts for Submitting to Literary Agents

They call it a slush pile for a reason, but don’t get discouraged. These tips will help your query letter shine and stand out from the rest.


*  Follow the guidelines. Be sure to format your manuscript to the specific guidelines, including but not limited to: font, margins, spacing, and file type. If the agent takes the time to request it, they are probably doing so for a reason. Your file may not be easy to read or even open properly if it’s not done as requested. Most agents won’t take the time to troubleshoot this when they have tons of other manuscripts to read. Plus, it shows that you are able to follow instructions.

*  Research the agent. Publishers Marketplace is a great place to start if you don’t know anything about the agent. Take a look at some of the past work they’ve represented, and make sure that your book fits. Some agents will even provide tips for how to format your query. You may have to rewrite it several times, but landing your dream agent will be worth it!

*  Treat you query letter like a job application. Everything should be error free and professional.

*  Look at examples of successful query letters. Query Shark is a wonderful resource! Make sure that the content in your letter is laid out properly.

*  Include the word count and genre. This could be the deciding factor.

*  Mention previous writing credits and publications. If you’re mutli-published, say so! If this is your debut story, don’t be ashamed to admit it. You can always include relevant certifications, degrees, and memberships.

*  Let them know about any established fan base. Do you have thousands of followers on your website or social media? Be sure to mention that!  

*  Handle rejection. There’s no need to respond to a rejection letter. If the agent isn’t excited about your manuscript, then it won’t be a good match anyway. Move forward and don’t quit! Everyone is rejected at some point.



*  Write impersonalized letters. Unless you are submitting to someone who specifically requests it, never address your letters to “Dear Agent” or “Dear Editor.”

*  Send a mass-email. If you include more than one agent/agency in your email, it shows a lack of research.

*  Point out your lack of experience. It’s okay to say this is your debut novel, but beyond that, let your work stand or fall on its own.

*  Send attachments unless it’s requested. Agents can open thousands of emails per week. That’s a lot of files! The standard is to copy and paste your query letter, synopsis, and sample into the email. Only include attachments if they’re requested.

*  Call you book a “fiction novel.” It makes you look like an amateur. All novels are fiction.

*  Show up to the agent’s office. It’s scary and unprofessional.

*  Call the agent. This is only acceptable if they have established a relationship with you.

*  Send nasty replies to rejections. Literary agents speak to each other more than you may realize.