for writers


1) Just don’t:

  • Start with a rhetorical question.
  • Not “spoil” the mystery or twist–spill it ALL!

2) Do:

  • Get right to the main character—by name.
  • Tell who he/she is, and do it in as few words as possible.
  • Tell what happens to him or her—the initial point of conflict in the book.
  • Show the choices the main character faces. Remember, the stakes must be high!
  • Use the ___ meets ___ format [“zombies meets Anne of Green Gables” or “The Breakfast Club meets zombies” or “Gone Girl meets Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”] or say “for fans of ___” [for fans of John Green, this coming of age…”] Using these kinds of techniques help the agent envision the project–they can see if it’s a potential film or bestseller and how they can pitch it/sell it to editors…)
  • Be prepared! Be ready for a request to read! You may be out or at work (perfectly fine) but have the book ready to send when home; don’t query if you haven’t written or only written half the book! (Don’t “test the waters” ok?)

3) Automatic Rejection:

  • “Fiction novel.” A novel is fiction, so when someone writes “fiction novel,” it is redundant, it also makes the agent side eye the writer.
  • “Bestseller.” Don’t self-market like this–let the agent be the one to decide that.
  • “Film potential.” Book agents are not film agents; they just want to know what the book is about.

4) Nobody cares, sorry:

  • Inspiration–how you came up with the idea does not interest agents in a query.
  • Personal information–it doesn’t matter where you live or how many cats you have.

5) Do your homework:

  • Research who the agent is–know the books they’re selling (don’t send your erotic novel to a picture book agent!).

Bonus Advice:

  • Use spellcheck
  • Read your work out loud to yourself–you’ll catch a lot of problems.


It’s not your job to be likable. It’s your job to be yourself. Someone will like you anyway.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Be honest, frank and fearless and get some grasp of the real values of life… Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself.
— W.E.B. Bu Bois, in his letter of life-advice to his teenage daughter.

 I’m going to be the heroine in my own story.
Anne with an “E”

The best thing you can do? Stop any comparisons (it gets you nowhere at all and will only exhaust you emotionally), turn to your own project with laser-beam focus, and bolster your own campaign as if you’ve spent years of blood, sweat, and tears working on this creative achievement—because chances are, you have spent years working on it.
— Ask the Publicists: But What About My Book? | Literary Hub

The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it.
Little Women: LA

Someone may come in with more experience than you, but they’re never going to know what you know.
The Intern

You know who’s going to give you everything? Yourself.
— Diane Von Furstenberg

Art is the UNAPOLOGETIC celebration of culture through self-expression.
— Beyonce (The 58th Grammy’s)

Do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.
— Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.
The Breakfast Club

Okay, why are you eating insecurity for breakfast?
Pretty Little Liars 

I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.
— E.B. White

To be a literary agent: it’s a modest job. But it’s a job that’s important for the writer. It’s a position that you take the right decision for your clients. And the problem is that the ego [of the agents] can get in the way. It’s very important that the agency is a person, one person. It’s not about money.
— Carmen Balcells (literary agent interview, Vanity Fair)

Behind every book nerd, there’s an English teacher who started it all. Sure, they didn’t convince us to like books. They did, however, encourage us to see them differently. They conjured enchanted objects onto the page: theme, metaphor, symbolism. They suffered our grammatical errors, remedying them with the wand of their red pen. Most of all, they listened to us talk about books, a subject we might find later in life that not everyone enjoys.
— from Thank an English Teacher