Posted in Writing Tips

Why Literary Agents Aren’t Requesting Material: Is It Your Novel or Your Query?

You’ve spent months, perhaps years, slaving over your latest novel. It’s perfect. Not a single typo has been spared through your dozens of revisions, and you have had multiple critique partners help whip your manuscript into shape. Now it’s time to dust off that query letter that was more difficult to write than the book, and send your work out to the world.

You’re feeling good. On top of the world. This is it. Your time. Your chance. Your novel is finally going to be published.

In comes rejection letter number one.

That’s okay. That’s one agent’s opinion. Your book wasn’t for them. Someone else is sure to love it.

Nine rejection letters later.

Do you continue sending your work out? Is it really just those agents who aren’t interested? Or is there something wrong with the material you’re sending out?

More than likely, if the agents didn’t even ask for sample pages, it’s your query that needs work, not your novel (though that might need work, too.)

First, are you personalizing your queries? Have you taken the time to research each agent you query? Make sure they’re interested in your genre and look into their recent sales and clients. Add some tidbits and connections into your letter (not more than a few sentences, at most) to show there’s a reason you’re querying this agent. Show that they’re the right person for your project and not just another name to cross off a list.

Second, did you have someone who hasn’t read your novel look over your query before you sent it out? It’s easy to say it makes sense when you know the story inside and out, but for someone who has never read the story, your query could make very little sense—an immediate turn off for agents. Make sure your summary is crisp and clear. Simplify it enough to make it enticing and fast to read, but still make sense. You don’t want the agent sitting there asking, “Wait, what was the motivation?” Or, “Why are there so many characters introduced in the query?” Or worst of all, “This doesn’t seem to have a plot!”

Third, did you and someone else (and another someone else, and another) proofread your letter? Typos and grammatical mistakes are a big no-no. You should take this letter as seriously as your novel. Mistakes in such a short letter reflect your book. If it’s littered with small mistakes, the agent is going to assume your novel is, too.

Do you have any other query mistakes to add? Let me know what you think in the comments.

And best of luck to anyone who is going through this process. I hope you find the right agent for your work!



Hello! My name is Katie and I like to write. If I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, running, playing with my dogs, or eating peanut butter ;)

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