Ask the Agents

A panel of literary agents talk about their role in the publishing industry and reasons why they reject query letters, proposals, and manuscripts.
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This is a post by guest blogger, Joe Perry, intern at FinePrint Literary Management.

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In the second session of the day, a panel of literary agents--Mary Kole from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, April Eberhardt from April Eberhardt Literary, Diana Fox from Fox Literary, and John Willig from Literary Services, Inc.--spoke to aspiring writers about their role in the publishing industry and the reasons why they reject query letters, proposals, and manuscripts.

Eberhardt noted that an agent’s primary duties are talking with authors, accepting submissions, reading manuscripts, and selling work to publishers. Willig also added that when an agent takes on an author, he or she hopes that the author will have a series of books, so the agent and author can have a growing relationship with each other and further develop the author's career.

For writing query letters, proposals, and manuscripts, here are a list of reasons why agents may reject them:

Query Letters/Proposals:

  • The writing is bad (grammar and mechanics errors).
  • The query letter or proposal does not immediately capture the agent's attention.
  • The writer does not provide sample chapters when submitting a proposal.

Manuscripts:

  • The writer does not fully understand his or her characters.
  • The plot lacks structure.
  • The writing is not as good as advertised in a query letter or proposal.

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