Friday, December 10, 2010

Literary agents, synopsis, queries, and sample chapters.

Why do agents ask for a synopsis (a short paragraph, or no more than one page), a query letter (no more than one page), and sample chapters? I know they want to get a good feel for your novel before looking at it. But still, why don't they look at all three, instead of just looking at the synopsis and saying 'no.' Or just looking at the query letter and saying 'no.' In other words, why don't they look at the sample chapters to see if the writing works for them. I'm submitting one of my novels through Webook to literary agents. I'm paying a small fee to have my queries tracked. Of the six agents who've looked at my submission, three looked at the short synopsis and said no, two looked at the short synopsis and query letter and said no, one looked at short synopsis, bio, and query letter and said no, and one looked at short synopsis, query, and sample chapters and said no. There are another seven agents who've yet to look at my submission.

What I deduce from this is that the short synopsis is critical. If the agent doesn't like it, she'll go no further. Then, if she does look at the query, it has to be even better than the synopsis. So, I need to make my short synopsis sizzle, and the query letter heat the sizzle to a higher temperature, or agents won't even bother with the sample chapters. And, finally, the first page or two of the sample chapters needs to sizzle. (I won't try to define 'sizzle' at this point. But it needs to be addressed.)

Granted, this is a small sample. But small samples are usually representative of the whole. (I submitted only to agents who wanted all three: short synopsis, query letter, and sample chapters. Many agents only want to see a query letter, and some request a query letter and short synopsis only. I felt that my chances were better if I could submit to agents who wanted sample chapters. Apparently, not so.)

Oh, and one other observation: the agents are so busy, they'll look at your submission when they get around to it.
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