How to Get Published in light of #queryfail

#Queryfail saw some literary agents, book editors and periodic acquisition editors tweet about queries (proposals) that made them stop reading and say “not for me”.  Personal identifiers were excluded and the aim was to educate.  Although within the 140 character limit on tweets, comments weren’t particularly constructively phrased. 




Anyone following would have concluded:-



·        Writers often fail to follow submission guidelines.

·        Only include what’s requested – exclude photos, scented paper, stickers, promotional items – such gimmicks backfire.

·        Don’t send a query/proposal for a novel that’s not finished.

·        Don’t list every single publishing credential ever. 

·        Know the difference between arrogance and confidence. 

·        Punctuation and grammar – use them correctly. 

·        Address an agent by their name – “Dear Sir” or “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Editor” won’t do.

It took a whole month for some writers to hit back with #agentfail.  The common complaints were:-

·        “If no response, I’m not interested” policies.

·        Confusing submission guidelines – either lacking in clarity or different guidelines meaning writers have to chose one and hope it’s the correct one.

·        Chasing for royalty statements.

·        Agents whose websites/blogs state they represent a genre and then reject work in that genre because they don’t represent it.

·        Agents who insist writers can only write in one genre.

·        Agents who boast about the fantastic contract they’ve just won for another author and say they’re too busy to get back to the writer chasing for a response.

·        Agents suggesting self-publishing companies with their rejection letter, especially when marketing material for the self-publisher is enclosed.


There’s a lot of overlap.  A lot of complaints on both sides would be resolved if both agents and writers behaved with professional courtesy, responded in reasonable timescales and treated each other as if they were their only clients (agents by not talking about the other writers they represent; writers by using an agent’s name and not wasting everyone’s time by sending query/proposals for unfinished novels or genres the agent doesn’t represent).


Ultimately, though, writers have to understand that they are not entitled to be published.  Merely finishing a manuscript is not enough.  Even a fully polished manuscript that’s been through several drafts and won approval of a writers’ group, mentor or script appraisal service, does not necessarily deserve to be published.


Books get published because a publisher believes there is a market for them and that the book will sell.  If you are serious about getting published, you will read extensively and know your market.  You will know which publishers target that market and which agents represent writers in that market.  You will take time and trouble over your query/ proposal, refining it for each agent you approach to give your manuscript the best chance of being selected.

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