Agent Query Review

When agents receive a written submission from a potential client, their first thoughts are, “Is this a book that I want to handle and can I sell it?”

Despite instructions on their Web sites etc., a large majority of the contacts agents receive are surprisingly not about books or subjects they handle.

“For all authors, first time or established, what it all comes down to is having a marketable book idea,” according to Jill Alexander, senior acquisitions editor at Adams Media.

“A marketable idea is something that fits with the house and is something that can be positioned and sold. Authors should focus narrowly. Is it saying something new to an established demographic, or, conversely, is it finding a new audience that is out there that hasn’t been addressed that’s actually pretty sizable? Many first-time authors mistakenly try to be everything to everyone. Instead, find out who your audience is-men or women, what age group, where do they work, what is their income level, what is their lifestyle, do they go to bookstores, how do they get their information, do they buy books or magazines, do they get their information from TV? Think about those questions,” Alexander suggests.

The first thing agent Edward Knappman looks for is “a grabber in terms of the topic. Something that really grabs my attention in the first few lines or a topic that interests me personally. The grabber should excite me and be the same kind of hook that you would use in a proposal. Other important items that I look for are the writer’s credentials, writing history and platform. For business books, first-time writers need to have a platform,” Knappman continues, “because the field is so competitive and it’s hard to break out a business book when the author doesn’t have a platform. Publishers want to know that they have some kind of following.”

When agents receive submissions from writers they’re interested in, they send them their author/agent agreement, which they ask the writer to sign and return. Most agents try to get the author/agent agreement signed early in the relationship, before they perform a great deal of work.

By Rick Frishman
Reprinted from “Rick Frishman’s Author 101 Newsletter”
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