Do's and Don'ts
- Do your homework. Know the different categories used to classify fiction and nonfiction and know within which category your work falls. For children's books, you should demonstrate a familiarity with the category—know length, age of audience, formal conventions. This kind of knowledge helps to show the agent that you are approaching your writing as a professional.
- Do include a proper and personalized greeting to the agent you are querying, including where you met us and why you've chosen to submit to us. We tend to ignore letters where this is omitted—assuming that if the author hasn't even taken the time to target us specifically, they're not professional or serious about the process.
- Do research the agent (and agency) to whom you plan to submit your material. Make sure you follow the appropriate submission guidelines, and know what kind of material the agent represents. [Resources that contain this information areWriter's Market; Writer's Digest Guide To Literary Agents; Agency websites; Publishers Marketplace. In addition to Writer's Market, there are various other guides to publishers, editors, and literary agents that contain useful information.]
- Do write a polished, professional, well crafted, and error free email query letter. Good writing and a strong pitch for your project are essential. Compel us to read on.
- Do mention any referrals, personal connections or contacts.
- Do keep sending your work out. Rejection is an inevitable part of the business. Everyone experiences it, and you need to develop a thick enough skin so that you keep putting your work out there even in the face of rejection (especially in the face of rejection).
- Do let the agent know if yours is a multiple submission.
- Do take advantage of all the wonderful resources out there for writers: the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators,Publishers Weekly; Publisher's Marketplace (online), Writer's Digest; Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers & Literary Agents; Writer's Market, Agency Websites, Amazon, Association of Authors Representatives; Author's Guild; Shaw's Guide to Literary Conferences; Websites of terrific authors who are great promoters and very savvy about the business of publishing, like Barry Eisler (see Barry's 'On Writing' section); Joe Konrath (see Joe's blog); and MJ Rose's blog Buzz, Balls, and Hype.
- Don't submit an email query letter or manuscript with careless errors. Your writing should be free from errors, and the presentation of your material should be professional.
- Don't take perseverance too far.
- Don't act unprofessionally at any time—even after receiving a rejection. That way the door is left open. Also, publishing is a small community in many ways. You don't want to get a bad reputation or to burn bridges.
- Don't use gimmicks to get attention.
- Don't expect an answer too soon. Each of our agents receives hundreds of queries per month. Our agency has a tiered system of response, and also typically has two readers for projects we are seriously considering. It can take a while to get a response.
- Don't submit to more than one person at the same agency.
- Don't keep sending manuscripts to an agent who has declined your work unless the agent asked you to send more or unless a reasonable interval of time has gone by since you submitted your work and the work is significantly different.
- Don't submit to agents who don't handle what you write.
- Don't send e-queries with a whole list of agents in the subject line. This is a big turn off. Multiple submissions are fine (say it's a multiple submission), and you don't have to individualize every query, but at least give the illusion of targeting the particular agent whom you are querying.
- Don't assume your job ends once you've found an agent (or an editor).
- Don't give up! Keep working on your writing, and believe in yourself.