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The Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Literary Agents
Dear Aspiring Authors, Brew a pot of coffee. Pull up a chair. Heck, grab a notebook and a pen – it couldn't hurt. Make yourself comfortable. You might be here for a while. This could be one of the most important things you'll ever read along your journey to publication. An exaggeration? You tell me...


A few weeks ago, I emailed about 100 literary agents, asking them a simple question: What is the single biggest mistake writers make when querying you?

Most of the responses began the same way: 'Only one? How about several!'

Over 50 agents found the time to respond, and I have compiled their thoughts for you within this post.

Yes, reading this will take up a bit of your time (20-30 minutes, to give you a fair projection), but…how important is the success of your novel to you? You've (presumably) spent hundreds of hours planning, writing, editing, and perfecting your manuscript. Now, it is time to treat your query with the same respect.

Agents are your gateway to eventual literary success.

Give your manuscript the chance it deserves! – learn how to write a query letter that catches an agent's eye.

As far as I know, this is the most comprehensive list of answers to this question (“What are the biggest mistakes writers make when querying?”), but by no means does this list tell you everything you’ll ever need to know about queries. By reading this post, you will learn every common mistake to avoid, and along the way you will pick up several pointers from various agents of things that will make your query stand out; but don’t quit here! Visit Janet Reid’s Query Shark page. Dip into the query-writing insight of Rachelle Gardner. Google agents and read every bit of advice they are willing to share. Study, learn, and practice!

You already know that writing is an art. Now, it’s time to learn that query-writing is an art as well.

Before we go any further, I would like to pause and thank the agents who contributed to this post:

Alice Martell * Amy Boggs * Amy Tipton * Annie Hawkins * Bree Ogden * Brian Defiore * Cameron McClure * Caren Estesen * Daniel Lazar * Danielle Svetcov * Don Maass * Elizabeth Pomada * Farley Chase * Gina Panettieri * Heather Mitchell * Helen Breitwieser * Helen Zimmermann * Janet Kobobel Grant * Jeff Gerecke * Joyce Hart * Kate McKean * Kimberley Cameron * Laney Becker * Liv Blumer * Lucinda Blumenfeld * Lucy Carson * Marietta Zacker * Maura Teitelbaum * Michael Murphy * Michelle Wolfson * Mollie Glick * Pam Ahearn * Rachel Dowen * Richard Curtis * Russell Galen * Sally van Haitsma * Sam Stoloff * Sean McCarthy * Sheree Bykofsky * Sophia Seidner * Stephany Evans * and those of you who requested that you remain anonymous…

For the rest of the article

JM Tohline


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