In this first edition of a new monthly column, we check in with one of our resident agents to answer those questions you’re too afraid to ask for yourself. This month, Laura Bennett of the Liverpool Literary Agency kicks us off with some of the regular starter queries.
Am I ready for an agent?
So, you have your shiny new book and you want to send it out. My advice here is to ask yourself a few questions. Is it the best it can be, without obsessively polishing? (Don’t send out a first or second draft!) Have you run it past at least a couple of readers? Are you confident that most of the errors have been removed? (Note – I didn’t say all! It’s okay if there are still a handful of mistakes in things like grammar and word choices. Even published booked have them!) And then once you’re happy that your manuscript is ready, you also need to do a bit of research. Make sure you have a list of agents/publishers that take your genre and age category, and you know that they’re open for submissions! There’s no rush to send something out… as you’ll probably be waiting for a while afterwards! That’s my last big piece of advice – prepare to wait, and always make sure you have something new to work on.
Does it matter how I format my queries?
Short answer: No. Long answer: Not unless there are specific guidelines. Basically, as long as it’s readable and neat then it doesn’t really matter UNLESS the agent/publisher has guidelines about style and format. For your synopsis I would generally say you can do it single-spaced unless told otherwise.
How do I find comp titles?
I find comp titles to be one of the things authors struggle with the most when writing queries. Try not to get too caught up in them. My general advice is to make sure it’s something that came out within the last 2-3 years and to have at least one book. It’s okay to also have a film or a video game, as long as they’re popular enough that the agent/publisher will know about them. (Baldur’s Gate 3 – yes. Doki Doki Literature Club – no.) My biggest tip here is to go with themes and settings, don’t try and find perfect matches. It’s great if you use “the X of Y meets the A of B.” Such as “the cosy fantasy of Legends & Lattes meets the secondary worlds of The Wayward Children”.
Is it okay to nudge an agent?
It generally is, as long as you don’t go overboard. And depending on their own policies. Some places have a “X weeks means no” policy, which is fairly clear. Others don’t, and it’s absolutely okay to send a nudge after a few months. Especially if they’ve requested a full manuscript from you. It’s absolutely fine to ask questions too – if you’ve done significant revisions on a rejection and want to ask if they’ll take another look, or if you have a new version – do just email across. Worst they can do is say no.