Hope In The Slush by Callie Deitrick

If you have written a book or a proposal, let me start by offering you my congratulations! Writing a book is no small feat and even the most experienced of authors struggle with the process. But, now, as I’m sure you know, comes another daunting challenge: the slush pile. Unless you have an inside connection, it is likely that you will be sending your work through an unforgiving email portal from which you may never hear back. This is, no doubt, quite frightening and often discouraging.

Depending on the agency, the slush pile might get tens or hundreds of new manuscript pitches and proposals a day. Since agents are already pressed for time, the importance of making your submission stand out at a quick glance goes without saying.

While the odds may seem unfavorable, I am here to tell you that they are not impossible. This past April when I was reading through the slush, I found a nonfiction proposal that immediately caught my attention. The letter was crisp, the book had a clever hook, and the author had exceptional credentials. We immediately reached out to the author, who was also being courted by other agents, and we successfully signed her shortly thereafter. After a few weeks of revising with the author, we sent the proposal to a carefully selected group of editors. Enthusiastic responses led to multiple meetings. In the end, the book was sold for six-figures! From start to finish, we sold the book in just 10 weeks.

If you send us a well-crafted letter and show that you’ve done your research, and present yourself and your project in a compelling way, I guarantee that your submission is already better than many of the submissions agencies receive. Emails that come to the slush often exhibit minimal effort in following our guidelines or researching our agency. Know your customer (us!) and what we are looking for. We frequently see wild conspiracy theories, genres we clearly state we don’t represent, and even the occasional scam (one scam tried to blackmail us into paying them in Bitcoin), so I promise that if you put the time and energy in, you will be carefully considered.

Try not to get discouraged. Just because you don’t hear back from one agency doesn’t mean that your book will never get sold. Agents want to find great material in the slush as much as you want to find a great agent. Trust the process and know that when you find the right agent it will all be worth it.

-Callie

How To Write The Perfect Query Letter by Nicki Richesin

Every famous author (even the esteemed Mr. King and Ms. Rowling) has had to write a query letter and was rejected on more than one occasion. Sometimes dozens of times. Take courage in knowing that this is just part of the process.

Congratulations! You have polished your manuscript to every inch of its life and are ready to find an agent. You have researched and identified a few agents who represent the same type of book you have written and would be a good fit for your project. Now you are finally ready to write your query letter. Deep breath. It’s not that hard, I promise.

Your query letter should be well-written, thoughtful, and short. How short you ask? Remember Shakespeare’s advice that brevity is the soul of wit!

I like to read no more than three paragraphs (four is pushing it) that amounts to one page. Remember this is the first impression of your writing, so you should demonstrate your skill. I would suggest sharing your letter with your fellow writers and trusted advisers. Does it capture their attention and intrigue them?  

In the first part of the letter, you should briefly explain in one sentence why you are contacting the agent. Personalize your note by describing why you believe this particular agent would be interested in your book.

In the second paragraph, include your book’s title, word count, and genre/category. Then offer a three-to-four-sentence synopsis of your book. Focus on the story’s premise and try to express what makes it compelling to the reader. The description should be written as succinctly as one you would read on the back of a book or jacket copy. You should refrain from explaining in detail all the twists and turns of the plot. When in doubt, better to leave it out.

The queries that have impressed me the most are clever and beautifully written, but also demonstrate an awareness of the marketplace. I am on the hunt for a writer who has identified the story’s hook- one that not only grabs my attention and makes the story unique and surprising, but often completely unexpected.

Finally, include a short bio, offering information about your background that pertains to your work or your writing skills. Add any relevant publication credits, writing degrees, memberships in writing communities or organizations, awards, and grants. You want to prove your commitment to your writing career. So feel free to include anything special that you bring to your writing background, perhaps in your research or career. You can always include something personal that will show you’re an interesting person.  

Please note at WSA, we request that you copy and paste the first ten pages of your novel in the body of the email.

That’s it. I know you may be tempted to share more information with agents, but it’s better to keep it short and sweet. Best of luck and keep writing!

-Nicki