When I was a literary agent, authors would try to creative with their subject lines. Sandwiched in between subject lines like “Query” and “Query Author Name” will be one that says:
- New novel act fast!!
- I have just the project for you!
- Not just another query! (only it was usually just another query)
Nice effort but…
I do respect that these authors are thinking about how many e-mails are likely in the agent’s inbox (chances are: a lot) and are thinking they need to really stand out in order to be read. It’s definitely coming from a good place.
But the end result is that it sometimes felt like I was hearing from a group of excited telemarketers and/or spammers.
Allow me to take a moment to reassure the “OMG another rule to follow and someone else on the Internet said the exact opposite KMN” anonymous commenters. This isn’t another rule to follow and no one is getting rejected over their subject line. Subject lines? Really not a big deal. Also, imaginary anon: you might consider decaf.
Avoid spam filters
The real reason to reconsider a wacky subject line is this: we live in a Spam Filter world. If your e-mail accidentally ends up in Spam Land and the agent is scanning that folder before deleting, the best way to ensure that an agent will see your query and retrieve it is if you have used some combination of “Query” or “Query + Title” or “Query + your name” in the subject line. It’s like your query’s life raft!
If your subject line looks like spam: should it land in the spam filter an agent may well mistake it for actual spam or not notice it at all.
Now. Is it mandatory? Not unless the agent you’re querying says it is. Is the agent probably going to appreciate it? Yes. Have you ever had spam musubi? Delicious.
You’re not selling the agent on your ability to write a catchy subject line. Be confident that your query will do the trick.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.