Updated: Dec 13, 2021
Professional UK book editor reveals 7 shocking mistakes writers often make when querying literary agents for the first time!
Finally querying your book to literary agents can be incredibly exciting, so it's understandable that you'd want to get your manuscript out there as soon as possible.
However, you need to make sure that every aspect of your query is squeaky clean and follows the etiquette expected.
This may sound obvious, but there are many things writers do, or don't do, in their query letter alone that often turn literary agents off immediately.
So, if you're planning to query literary agents soon, here are 7 no-no's to avoid!
Related Post: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing the Perfect Query Letter
1. Querying a Document Riddled with Typos
Not only will sending a literary agent a document full of typos, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and punctuation issues make you look unprofessional and unprepared, but it can also be a massive insult to the agent.
One or two typos throughout an entire manuscript can't always be helped, but if your query, synopsis AND three chapters are saturated with errors, the agent will likely question how mediocre you think they are.
These are the people who could potentially launch your book career and earn you millions with their expertise and contacts, so you need to show them that you believe that they are worthy enough to receive a polished document.
If you're not confident that your query letter, synopsis or manuscript is up to submission standard, I would love to help you get there with my manuscript editing services, so please get in touch with me here if you'd like to get started.
2. Not Addressing the Specific Agent
Some writers have the misconception that writing a query letter and accompanying email is the same as writing a cover letter for a job at somewhere like Nando's.
When you write a cover letter for a job, you can get away with writing "Dear Sir/Madam" or "Dear Employer" at the beginning, but when you query a literary agent, you NEED to address them by their actual name.
Addressing them by their name at the top of your query letter and email shows them that you've actually researched who they are and 100% know WHY you're querying THEM specifically.
3. Not Researching the Agents You Query
It sounds obvious to research the literary agents you may query, but many writers don't and end up sending their work to an agent who isn't right for their manuscript.
For example, you need to know whether the agents you query actually represent the genre you've written; whether they're looking for your style of narrative or theme; what their submission guidelines are, and whether their submissions inbox is actually open.
If you don't research correctly and send your manuscript to the wrong agent, you probably won't even receive a rejection email back, so make sure you research the agents!
4. Querying Multiple Agents at the Same Agency
If there are two or three agents at the same literary agency who accept your genre, style & theme, it makes sense to query all of them to increase your chance of representation.
These agents sit next to each other in the same office, so they'll know who's received what query. This may not sound like a big deal, but if you send your manuscript to multiple agents at the same agency, you run the risk of looking like a spammy writer who isn't actually interested in specific agents.
Your ultimate goal may well be to get a book deal regardless of who represents you, but you need to show the agent that you've researched WHO appears to be the best match for your novel, even if more than one agent may be interested in your manuscript.
If they think your book has potential but aren't interested in it themselves, they may refer it to their colleagues, but if you receive a rejection email in response, wait 6 months and THEN query another agent at that agency.