Tuesday, February 9, 2016

In The Life of an Agent: Reflections

This week has been an interesting one regarding the queries in my inbox. I often find myself questioning people’s sanity. Not only authors, but people in general. Have you read a newspaper lately? Geesh. This occasionally — maybe more than I’ll admit here — happens while reading through queries. Especially this week. It made me think back to a time long ago in a world far, far away...when I did this thing on Twitter called "10 Query Tips." There was one week that stuck out in my head — March 13th, 2015. 

Instead of rambling off the long list of unprofessionalism in my inbox this week, I figure I'd present these tips in hopes that they set something off in your head in case you've done some of the following: 

1) If the POV character doesn’t notice something, don’t mention it! How can we — the readers — “see” or know something if our protagonist doesn’t? In third person Omnipotent this isn’t a problem, but otherwise we are in a single person’s head, remember? We can only “know” what they know.

2) The first paragraph of your novel should not be backstory. I don’t want a history lesson about an imaginary world. I want tension, conflict, beautiful imagery (note: this doesn’t mean weather or scenery) and a hook. Keep us wanting to read on.

3) Make sure your science “fiction” premise is not already science “fact”. Otherwise, your whole plot will go haywire. Not to mention your story will no longer be science FICTION. For example, if your premise is a woman  being given an artificial/mechanical heart after a horrible accident, but said heart has no whacky effects on her (say, giving her electrical powers, or turning her into a mindless slave) then that’s not science fiction. Artificial hearts are real and people have them. So…who cares? That doesn’t inspire anyone with awe and wonder at the glory of some new science.

4) I hate adverbs. I wholly support killing them. I cringe every time I read one. Blame my professor of Gothic Literature. She beat them out of me.

5) Kate Brauning, author and Senior Editor at Entangled Publishing, says, "Your characters do not have to be likable. They do have to be relatable and make us want to invest time in them. #subtips" (via Twitter 03/07/2015)

6) A personal rejection with a helpful suggestion is not an attack on you, your craft, or your book. So don’t respond like it is. That time I took to read, consider, and phrase my thoughts in a constructive way is money I’ll never see. It’s time I could have spent reading/critiquing current clients’ material, or connecting with editors, or anything else that could lead to money. Also, think about this. The more nasty responses I receive, the more it seems like I shouldn’t offer suggestions. And I don’t want to do that. I like pointing out what I think needs work. Should I let you continue you querying a 200,000 word manuscript, knowing that’s about 100,000 words too long to be salable in this market (for a debut)? Maybe, but I would feel bad not doing so.

7) Emily Steele, Editorial Director at Medallion Press, says, "Declined a submission; send replies that I didn't read it. #querytip: Don't do that." (via Twitter 03/11/2015)

8) Lying in a query is a BIG no-no. Even if you don’t get caught, which you will, just don’t do it. No relationship — and it’s called a author/agent relationship for a reason — based on a lie can survive. The end.

9) Don’t insult ANYONE or ANYTHING in a query. Keep it positive and professional. For all you know that crack you made about how your vampires don’t glitter offended me. I could be sitting at my computer desk, wearing ten pounds of glitter and playing Twilight LARP. I don’t do that, but how do you know?

10) Follow. Submission. Guidelines. First impressions count. Show us you know how the industry works, you can follow directions, and are serious about your dream. Research your dream. Can’t you take the five minutes — seconds? — to look up an agent’s guidelines?

Okay, I think that’s enough for today. Happy Tuesday and remember to subscribe to Pub Hub for future posts from myself and other butt-kicking authors/agents.

And don't forget to write on!

Lane Heymont is an associate agent at The Seymour Agency, representing science fiction, fantasy, romance, nonfiction, and attempts to write his own stuff under a wonderful pseudonym. You can follow him on Twitter at @LaneHeymont


  1. This was a great post! I laughed out loud about the 10 pounds of glitter. It's a great visual. :) Thanks for taking the time to post your tips.

  2. Thanks, Melissa! I appreciate the comment. :-)

  3. Awesome points, Mr Heymont. Thank a lot for it. It'll be really helpful once I start querying.