Barbara Poelle’s “10 For 10 Rule”

Agent Barbara Poelle of Irene Goodman Literary is here in Texas with me at the 2009 Northeast Texas Writers’ Conference. (More on what East Texas is like and the proper protocol with dealing with fire ants later … )  This morning, Barbara gave some great advice to the crowd on breaking down the query letter, with plenty of “do” and “don’t” information for writers.

Of note was the speech finale: Her “10 for 10 Rule: 10 Questions Writers Should Ask Themselves Regarding Their Query if They Have Received 10 Rejections from Agents.”

1. Are you thoroughly researching the agencies you are sending to?
2. Does the specific agent you are querying represent your genre?
3. Does your query have any of the “Don’ts” on it? (I do not have this list of “don’ts” here, but I presume it includes many gimmicky mistakes, such as scented paper, weird fonts, sending pictures of your kids, etc.)
4. Do you have any spelling or grammatical errors in your chapter selections?
5. Are there too many competitive titles currently crowding the genre?  If the market is flooded with vampire and werewolf romance, for instance, even a good book with the same basic subject matter may never see the light of day.
6. Could it be called “chick lit” by someone in a meeting? The terrible, sad truth: This alone can kill a book these days.
7. Is your word count too low? (Below 50K?)
8. Is your word count too high? (Above 120K?)
9. Are you straddling too many genres to be appropriately sold into one?
10. Is this your strongest possible draft of the novel?

 


Barbara Poelle


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