As I was brainstorming about what to blog about today I was thinking I’d discuss how if you just familiarize yourself with agent blogs and use your best judgment and act in good faith and send the best query you can you’re going to be fine and there’s no need to sweat the tiny details. And then lo and behold I come across an identical post by Michael Bourret. Already written! Today no less!
Between this and Holly Root’s recent post, both of which I agree with, clearly there is a feeling among agents at the moment that we have sufficiently terrified authors that it is now necessary to reassure them that we are not going to send them packing at the first sign of a typo or query faux pas.
And Michael’s right. It’s not about the details.
Only…. it kind of is.
I mean, it is and isn’t.
It isn’t in the sense that there really is no such thing as an instant rejection if you make a query faux pas. We’re going to take everything into account when making a decision, and just because you, say, started with a rhetorical question doesn’t mean I will automatically reject you. It just means you will have tried my patience to the breaking point argh don’t do it to me!!
It is about the details in the sense that we are actually making a decision based on a short letter and maybe some sample pages and so of course it’s about the details.
But which details to sweat and which details to not sweat?
Here’s my sweat list:
Overall look – Around the right length, a reasonable font, 10 or 12 point font, broken into reasonable paragraphs, no fiddling with margins, pictures, indenting, colors, etc. Just a clean, professional-looking letter. Don’t sweat if it’s a little long or a little short, and definitely do not start messing around to try and make it look creative or different. When it comes to letters, “creative” tends to look “insane.” It’s like showing up to a job interview in a clown costume. When you’re formatting your query: wear a boring suit.
The description of your work. Get. This. Right. Get it right. Get it right, get it right, get it right. Get it right. Sweat this. This is what we care about. We’re looking for a good story idea and good writing, and you want both to jump out in the query.
Annnnd, we’re done!
All that other stuff like credits, genre, word count, series, etc. etc. etc.? Sure, great if you can sort through our pet peeves and get yourself in the ballpark of the right genre, and every little bit helps if you can show that you’re cool and professional and know what you’re doing. If I didn’t blog about that stuff people would still ask, and hey: I’m much more comfortable when I feel like I know what I’m doing, so I try to bore down and help people out with the little stuff too.
But when it comes down to it: use your best judgment and get the big stuff right. All the rest is gravy.