Standing Out By Fitting In
When submitting work to agents, authors often (and rightfully) stress about how to make their submissions stand out from the crowd. The answer might be more obvious than you suspect.
It is true that you only have one chance to make a first impression. So make it count. Pitching carefully and the right way can help immeasurably in bringing an agent’s attention to your submission. Here are some simple tips to help you get off on the right foot:
It seems like a no-brainer, but take a moment to address your recipient thoughtfully. Is it a Mr. or a Ms. that you are addressing? Did you spell their name correctly? Addressing someone wrongly can be an agitating turn off to your intended audience. Keep the agent reading by addressing them properly.
Take some time to really research all of the agents you are querying/pitching. Who do they represent? Where do your style and their tastes intersect? Is this someone you are certain that you’d want to represent your books, and if so, why? Troll not only the agent’s website (when it exists) but look at their deals on websites like Publishers Marketplace (a small subscription fee will give you access to the goods). Let the agent know exactly why they would be great for you, but more importantly, why you would be a great addition to their agency.
Save the creativity for the content of your story. There is no need to be creative in formatting your query or manuscript. Sticking with the basic rules of formatting (a one page query, a double spaces mss with 1 in. margins) will keep an agent focused on the content, not distracted by the formatting.
Of all things writing, you hate the synopsis most. Well, it must still be done. And there is a great post here from my fellow agent, Stephen Barr, about how to do it. http://myscww.org/conference-faculty-blog-stephen-barr/ Enjoy! And I strongly suggest having this completed before you go out on submission.
Take time to polish, proofread, edit and make your manuscript sparkle. I always suggest that authors take time away from their materials, then return to it with fresh eyes before submitting to agents. Also, it won’t hurt to hire a proofreader. Submitting a clean manuscript will give you the best possible chance at success. It may feel like a lot of unnecessarily wasted time (I mean, it will eventually find an editor, right?). But I assure you that it is time well spent.
Taking some time to submit the right way takes only a bit of effort but can mean the difference between standing out.