Professional book editor in the UK lists and explains the 5 most common expectations aspiring authors shouldn't have for literary agents when querying!
Most writers embark on their querying journey with an open mind, a humble heart and zero expectations, but there are - and probably always will be - a select few who query literary agents with high expectations, usually stemming from ignorance or arrogance, or both.
However, the absolute worst thing you can do for yourself and your manuscript is query with expectations soaring through the roof. Not only will you annoy the agents you contact, but you'll also never get a traditional book deal and the constant rejection will chip away at your confidence, self-esteem and motivation.
On the one hand, you may already know that you have certain expectations when you query literary agents, but on the other, you may not realise that you have them, so this post will help you to identify the top 5 expectations you shouldn't have and why.
Posting screenshots of rejection emails online is quite common in the writing community, either as a way to express various emotions and share them with others or to increase drive and motivation, but some writers post their rejections to trash talk the agents for not providing feedback alongside the rejection.
The writers who expect feedback, especially those who take to social media to complain, annoy the hell out of me! Like, what do they think agents do all day?! Do they really think they sit at the computer 7 days a week and provide editorial feedback for unsolicited manuscripts? That's what a professional book editor is for!
No. Literary agents are so much more than a feedback service - they've got their own clients to represent, manage & advise, manuscripts to work on, meetings, conferences, events & book fairs to attend, phone calls to make, emails to reply to, publishers to propose to, contracts to draw up and a life to live.
If you had to get through all of these tasks (and more!) every day, would you have the time and energy to provide individual feedback to the thousands of writers who submit lengthy manuscripts to you?
No, probably not.
With this in mind, it's important to remember that literary agents have more to their job than reading new submissions, and it takes them a while to get through them, hence the standard 6-8 week waiting period, so it's unlikely that you'll receive personalised feedback on your manuscript.
If an editorial critique of your book is what you want, hiring a book editor, or at least gathering feedback from beta readers, is your best option.
Psst! Choose me to edit your manuscript ;)
Surprisingly, a lot of writers assume that they'll eventually get a literary agent and traditional publishing deal just because they query an abundance of agents, buuuuut sadly that's not how it works.
It's easy to be convinced that after querying upwards of 50 literary agents, you'll get a yes, as if the querying process is a numbers game, but even if this has worked for the likes of J. K. Rowling, Stephen King and all those other famous authors, it doesn't mean it's going to be the same for every single other writer.
Related Post: 7 Literary Agent No-No's: What NOT to do When You Query
Yes, querying literary agents is exciting, and getting a traditional book deal is an amazing opportunity, but take a minute to think about how many aspiring authors actually make it into book shops compared to the number of writers out there.
I'm not trying to burst your bubble or shatter your dreams, I just want you to realise that you're not owed representation, so it definitely shouldn't be an expectation you have when querying literary agents.
3. Query Issues Being Overlooked
Although the manuscripts that make it past the submission stage get thoroughly polished by the agent's editorial team, you should still make every effort to make your novel as perfect as possible before querying.
This may sound obvious, but many writers believe that they don't need to make their book perfect because it'll get edited anyway once an agent represents it, but that leads us back to point 2 above - expecting your manuscript to get represented, even after querying 100 times, is a negative mindset to have, and could cause you to slack, therefore pushing away every agent you query.
As well as making your novel the best it can be, it's important that you make your query letter and synopsis squeaky clean, too. Your query letter will likely be the first attachment agents open, so you need to make an amazing impression, remaining as professional as possible.
There's no good completing it thinking, Ah, that'll do, they'll know what I'm trying to say, because most won't bother to read any further. Literary agents are picky about the books they represent, especially as those books are launched into the public eye to make money, so they're not going to waste time overlooking silly typos and grammatical errors. If so little as one toe is out of line with your query, you'll have zero chance of representation.
So, don't assume that agents will overlook any issues with your manuscript, synopsis or query letter. Make each document as polished as possible and only query when your submission bundle is perfect.
If you're unsure whether your query package is up to scratch, I'm offering you the chance to have your query letter, synopsis and first three chapters reviewed by a professional editor. Click here to get the details!
4. Editorial Services
While working as a book editor, I've seen multiple posts on social media written by writers explaining their choices for not hiring an editor, and one of the most common reasons is: because a literary agent will only edit my manuscript anyway, so I'm not spending money on a service I can get for free with an agent.
Although some writers are lucky enough to get represented by a literary agent, not all do...and the ones who expect to get an agent and therefore expect editorial services are less likely to see their novels in book shops, purely because of their mindset.
Now, I'm not saying that all writers should hire a book editor because that's the only way to get a literary agent, I'm just emphasising my previous points - don't slack with your manuscript just because you're confident that you'll receive a literary agent and consequently get free editorial services; that day may never come, especially if you're just waiting for an agent to edit your book rather than making the effort before you query.
5. Priority Over Other Queries
As mentioned before, a literary agent does more than sifting through their submissions inbox all day, so there's a reason they typically take 6-8 weeks to reply with a decision on your book.
By all means, a lot of agents encourage you to give them a gentle nudge if you've been waiting longer than usual, but expecting your manuscript to be prioritised because of your own opinions is a definite no-no.
Just because you think your high fantasy novel is the next The Lord of the Rings, a queue is a queue, and you definitely can't constantly nag the literary agents you've queried. Not only will you annoy them, but you’ll also appear unprofessional and tongues may wag - many agents know each other, so they may begin to warn others of you before you've had the chance to query them.
So, although you'll obviously be dying to hear back from the literary agents you've queried, stay patient and remain considerate - doing so will automatically increase your chance of representation, even if it takes 100 rejections to get there.
Related Post: 3 Reasons Why Hiring a Professional Book Editor Could Literally Win You a Publishing Deal
While the querying process can be exciting, daunting and life-changing, five common expectations when submitting your manuscript to literary agents will only lead you to a lifetime of rejections with little progress:
1. Expecting feedback from agents
2. Expecting representation
3. Expecting agents to overlook the issues within your query package
4. Expecting an agent’s free editorial services to be the only thing you need
5. Expecting your submission to be prioritised
Remember, people who have fewer expectations are rarely disappointed!
Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!
With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!