Agent Monday: Passing Thoughts

MP900341375Happy Agent Monday, peeps.  Since there seems to be an intense interest in why agents pass over certain queries, I thought I’d cave and give you some recent examples on why some recent queries got a no from me. So let’s get to it.

1. Generic! The query began with “Dear Agent” or some such, and then went on to say something like “I specifically picked you because you represent such great books and do such great things…”  Obviously a form letter, and a bit insulting to the intelligence, frankly. I’m so special, but you don’t know my name?  LAZY.


2. Not for me! My guidelines specifically state that I’m not into “books that feature graphic violence.” So you know that pulling out a chain saw and lopping off someone’s body parts in chapter one is the perfect book for me, right? AAAAAH! AAAAAAAH!!!!


3. First effort! This publishing thing is a business, and a tough one to break into at that, right? So when a querier sends me a manuscript that is their very first effort, and it’s clear that they’ve never ever read in their genre to figure out what’s what… it’s definitely too soon to be thinking about marketing anything.


4. Again? I get it. Women are swept away with the idea of a paranormal lover…someone dangerous and saucy and seductive. He’s HOT. He notices her. Did I mention that he’s hot and he notices her? Because that seems to be what’s goin’ on here, ladies. But I’m sorry folks, the wolf thing, the vampire thing, it’s been done done done done. And I’m not seeing anything new here.


5. It’s a what? For who? Here’s a query that really doesn’t know what it is, meaning the writer doesn’t know the genre he or she is writing for. There’s an 11 year old protagonist, but they are calling it a YA and giving it more mature themes, AND they are also infusing it with childlike happenings AND dialogue using words that even I had to look up.


6. Too clever for its own good. This query was clearly written by a very smart person using very smart words and all sorts of intellectual word play. It felt like I was reading something that I’d been assigned in school and that I’d have to grab the Cliff Notes on to even begin to follow. I rub my forehead with exhaustion, and…


7. Lovely in some ways, but… This one shows some true skill in dialogue and wordplay and even a gentle sort of a hook thrown in which may work for more literary women’s fiction… but in 20 pages I still feel the plotting is a bit too sleepy and I just don’t care enough based on what I see and on the synopsis to read on. I send a more personalized rejection, but it’s still a…


8. Really? This query is one of those take something weird and add in something weirder and then write and write and write sort of things. It doesn’t even make sense.


9. Hmmm. Interesting! Here’s a query that is smart and funny. I like this writer right away. They show they know me (which is helpful) and that they are savvy about the market (which is even more helpful).  The first 20 pages are fresh and well written and build on the promise set up in the query: strong voice, different take on things, interesting. So I google the author (I google them? Check out this post to see more on that!) and see that no, this book wasn’t already published and isn’t available everywhere for free or whatever. And that, yes, the author does have an online presence that reflects her image in a decent way.


So that’s it. A peek into my inbox.

Remember, I’m ACTIVELY LOOKING for new clients, and I want to find them. I’m not sitting here twiddling my fingers thinking, “Hm, how can I ruin a writer’s hopes and dreams today?”  It’s more like, “Hm, where is the writer who is ready for me to make their hopes and dreams take off?”


But do your homework, make your work perfect first, and check out my guidelines here.


*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.  To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.

9 thoughts on “Agent Monday: Passing Thoughts

    • Thanks, Donna!

      And you are so right. Fortunately, these days doing homework is so much easier. I remember years ago when just about the only resource for writers was that clunky Literary Marketplace reference book at the library. 🙂

  1. I love the comments….Thanks. I wonder if you were to give a percentage of importance to each of the following categories how it would play out: Story, Writing proficiency, plotting, originality….any other categories I missed? If you saw a unique and interesting story, but the writer was too green to capture the essence, would it behoove you to “take them under your wing” and show them the ropes to see if they could break through and make it work? Or is that simply too much time spent with little in return? Just curious.

    • Thanks for stopping by! Actually, it’s all important. I’m a heavily editorial agent, but I won’t spend time teaching a writer how to do what they need to already figure out before looking for an agent. That’s simply not in my realm of action or part of what I get paid for (remember, I make a percentage of money off my client’s contracts, so…). Writers need to work that stuff out and get their work in tip-top shape before approaching the marketplace.

      That takes time, trial and error, critique groups, beta readers, research, growth, and perhaps even at times the help of a developmental editor.

      Agents spend their time reading queries, considering requested fulls, working with their clients to get their already great manuscripts in perfect shape for submission, contacting editors, pitching, following up, negotiating contracts, attending conferences, networking, etc. etc. etc. So that’s why writers will often get a generic rejection letter instead of pointers on how to fix things up. The agent is busy taking care of business 🙂

      • Thanks for the reply! But with so many agents choosing the author’s writing as the gating criteria, doesn’t that mean you would pass on someone like EL James? And that begs the question: Are you looking for the next “Fifty Shades” or the next “Moby Dick”? If someone had an amazing concept for a story but didn’t have the writing chops to bring it to fruition, would there be a missed opportunity for both parties? Just my 2 cents. Have a great day!

      • Thanks for your question, Dennis. It’s very competitive and there is a lot of talent out there, so for me it’s about finding the writer with the whole package. Having a red hot concept is only the start, and there are a lot of great ideas floating out there, but it isn’t in my realm to shape the writer’s story into something coherent and complete – that’s the writer’s job.

  2. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 03-07-2013 | The Author Chronicles

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