Agent Monday: Focused Writing Can Help Land an Agent

MP900178092Happy Agent Monday, everyone!  Spring is in full bloom here, and as a Literary Agent, I’m here to help writers’ careers blossom and grow. To that end, I’ve been scouring my query inbox hoping for the next great writer to grab my attention and inspire me to offer representation. Too often, though, queries lack focus, or the writing does. So today, I thought I’d spend a few moments pointing out how focus can help you land an agent.

Focus on your genre… What is it? Your book should fit into one genre, and meet (and exceed) the expectations of those readers.

Focus on the agents that represent your genre… If I say I do not rep high fantasy, then don’t send me a high fantasy query (or pretend that your high fantasy is really something different). Spend your time and energy querying a receptive audience.

Focus your query… Make it clear what your book’s genre is, what it is about, why you have picked this particular agent to query (see points 1 and 2 above!).

Focus your writing… Make every word count, every scene vital to the story, and every action important to advancing your plot. Whatever you promise the reader in the beginning pages, be sure that you deliver exactly that!

Scattershot queries, writing that doesn’t fit anywhere in particular on a book store shelf or that crosses disparate genres (like a middle grade novel with a serious romance, or a picture book with adult themes, or a supposed thriller with a slow literary pacing), or books that disappoint because they promise something that they then don’t deliver — will hurt your chances of getting an agent, and finding an audience.

So think it through. What is YOUR focus? Zero in on that, and others will soon be focusing on YOU.


*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site.

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7 thoughts on “Agent Monday: Focused Writing Can Help Land an Agent

  1. Thanks for the reminder about focus. I think that my genre of a memoir is a particularly difficult type to focus. In effect, I must edit out portions of my own life. Yet when I succeed in scouting out and deleting a superfluous scene, paragraph, sentence or word, it is oddly gratifying. I almost feel as though I’m getting rid of some no longer useful clothing or shoes. The more stuff I pull out, the more functional and inviting my closet will be.

    • I love the closet analogy! Perfect. Yeah, memoirs are especially hard, as are novels based on real experiences. We feel so bound to what really happened that it can get in the way of shaping that focused manuscript that stands on its own. Best of luck with decluttering!

      • Thank you. Since reading your thoughts and responding, I have been agonizing about the title of my book. I am wondering how to declutter IT! I wonder if I should choose a symbolic and intriguing title or create one that would include the several search words that will attract my most likely readers. At present, I am trying to do both. Is a title something you see as very important when you consider a manuscript?

      • A title is another way to tag your book and raise interest. You want it to be found by readers, so avoid impossible to spell words. And you want it to evoke some sense of what the book’s about. I wouldn’t worry about search words in the title, though.

  2. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 04-28-2016 | The Author Chronicles

  3. Pingback: Agent Monday: Focus on YA | Marie Lamba, author

  4. My computer groans from the weight of discarded titles. Read all the books and yet haven’t found “the one!” Finding a life partner was easier than this! Best-selling author of queries graciously offered to look over my (still stalled) proposal. Great opportunity would like to have what I need to send her.

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