#1 Wrong Country
Most agents who work for an agency can only represent authors from specific countries. You may live in Canada but are querying a USA agent, and their agency only represents US citizens. Some agencies represent a multitude of countries. Make sure the agent you are querying represents the country that you live in (where your passport says you are from).
#2 Wrong Genre
Not only do agencies have specific genres (fiction or nonfiction) and subgenres (e.g., Horror, cookbooks, etc.), but so do the agents working for them. Most agencies hire a few agents to look after specific genres and subgenres within the scope of the agency. DOUBLE check your genre and subgenre to the agency and the SPECIFIC AGENT! To read all about genres, click here.
#3 Agent Isn’t Accepting Queries
Many literary agents have two jobs; this is their second one. They read queries at night after work, looking after kids and their already-represented authors, etc. They only get paid if they can sell your book. Many agents dedicate specific times of the year to accepting queries. MAKE SURE THEY ARE ACCEPTING A QUERY BEFORE EMAILING THEM!
#4 The Agent Uses An Email Filter
Email filters, such as Query Manager, are increasingly used by agents. You are transferred to a form to fill out when you submit a query. Your answers are filtered through a type of sorting system (online database). Your email goes to, no – trash it, undecided, yes – want the full manuscript. It can even show if you have queried them before (with the same or different book). The filter sends your email to the appropriate location, so the agent only reads what they are looking for. Unfortunately, your wait time to receive an email back from them could just be wasted time for you. They never even read your email.
#5 Email Submission
Your email query was lost and went to spam or trash. Depending on what you wrote in the subject line, your email could have ended up in the agent’s trash, and they never saw it. Traditionally, an author is supposed to wait five to eight weeks for a response. If your email was lost, you wasted all those weeks before sending your query to another agent; so sad.
#6 Edit, Edit, and reEdit
Your query will usually be tossed immediately if your manuscript or book proposal has grammar and spelling errors. Hire a copyeditor to check for these, plus they will standardize your style and documentation, and improve clarity and flow, all the while saving the author’s meaning.
The relationship between an author and an agent is like marriage. First, you find someone you are interested in (agent), then you ask them out (pitch), then you go out on a date (query), then a second, third, or fourth date (full manuscript), you chat about common interests (do you get along), sign a prenuptial agreement (contract), and then get married (partnership). Once you are signed with an agent, the relationship can be smooth or rocky, but hopefully, you did your homework and know what you wanted in a partner, not just to be married to anyone (wrong agent).
#8 Word Count
AGENTS WILL REJECT A BOOK BASED ON WORD COUNT! Did you write enough words, or maybe too many? Both fiction and nonfiction have an average for how many words are in each type of subgenre. Do you know that there is a different word count for fantasy, romance, horror, and mystery? Check out our word count guide, click here
Your pitch doesn’t tell me what the book is about (the whole book in 280 characters). It is shorter than an elevator pitch. Quick and exciting! If you watch Netflix, it is like the description of each movie. It gives an overview of what is to come.
#10 Sample Pages
Do the pages keep the agent’s attention? Do they want to read more? Once you have a polished manuscript, read it out loud. Is it boring or exciting? You only have a few moments to catch the agent’s attention. Make it GREAT!