Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Intern Advice: How to get that Agent to read your query!

By the way. This latest blog is brought to you by Grammarly. "I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because you can pull one over on me, but you can't pull one over on Grammarly!"

I'm back with some more friendly neighborhood intern advice. How you can get an agent to notice your work?

Agencies get slammed with hundreds of query letters per week, sometimes per day. Hundreds. That number goes down around November and December - but their workload goes up because they are working on contracts for their clients - book deals - movie deals - etc... 

Agents try to read all queries but when you add up the numbers they just can't get to all of them. You could be waiting months to hear back. Or you might not hear back at all.

So, what's a writer to do? 

How can you get the attention you deserve?

How do you get read? 

My advice is this:

  • Go directly to  Query Shark  right now and research queries. 
     On the left side of the blog far down on the left side, there is a list of queries that got a YES. Look at those. Find one that matches your book idea the best and play with it. 

Just like artists copy great artworks first before they come up with their own amazing pieces. Writers copy great writing styles before they write amazing queries and books.

  • That first sentence better make me want to read more.

First sentences are a big deal. Not just big. Huge. Gargantuan. Mammoth!

Go directly to a book story and snag the top books in your genre. Have a notepad with you and copy all of their first sentences down. 

Now play with those. Can you tweak them to make them your own? Do they inspire you in some way? Why do you think they are the first sentence in that book? Do they make you want to read more? 

  • Idea. Concept. This better be new. Or old with a new twist. 

I love vampires. So if you are sending a vampire query it's up my ally, but it better be different. Really, extremely different because the world is slammed with vampire stories right now. 

Research what the agent's niche is. What can't they stop reading? You can figure this out by what they've been representing. If you see an agent publishing fantasy books on vampires - well then you know her niche. 

  • Writing. The writing must have that certain something. And this really means unique VOICE.
I know it when I read it. I can hear the character and I immediately love her, hate her, or need to know more about her. 

If your story starts off with action, there must be a strong voice there or it's just action. And who cares? If someone is in a car chase on that first page, it's just a car chase until the character speaks. 

There better be something new about the character that I haven't seen before. I better love her, hate her, or need to know more about her. 

In other words. How do you view the world? Tell me.

  • Experience. If you have some, put it in the query letter. If you don't have any, get some! 
Join SCBWI. Or any other writer's organization. This makes you look like you are a serious writer. 

Join a critique group. Get an article published. Start a blog. Intern for an agency. Go to writer's conferences or workshops. Volunteer at your kid's library. Work on author's months at your school. Do something in the industry you are trying to break into. (And know that this world is very small. Everyone knows everyone. Be kind. Be respectful. Be helpful.)

Now for why I keep reading:

  • I feel an emotional connection right away to the main character.
  • The first sentence is amazing and I have to know what's going to happen next.
  • The idea is fresh.
  • It's weird. Like Aliens meet Smurfs.
  • The writer has experience in the industry.
  • The query letter is very professional.
  • There are no typos.
  • The writer knows his/her craft and it shows.
  • It makes me think and question my beliefs.
  • Action mixed with strong voice.
  • The pacing is perfect. We're off and running.
  • There are other agent offers already.
  • A publisher has offered on it.
  • The premise is high concept - it could be a movie.
  • It's fresh fantasy with an awesome new world.
  • Anything vampire. I love them! What can I say?
  • Aliens intrigue me too.

I hope this helps you get that query in front of your ideal agent! Good luck. And as always...

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