Things You Should Know When Querying Agents – Part 1

Are you querying literary agents? If so, you might want to ensure you’re up to speed on things you should know during this stage. Take a look.

-Agents from different agencies (and sometimes the same agency) don’t have the same submission guidelines. You need to read them all and follow each one. If you don’t, an agent will think you’re not professional at best, or lazy at worst. Either way, they won’t want to work with you.

-Some agents (or their assistants) read queries in the order they’re received. Some pick through the pile randomly, or they search for a specific genre they’re dying to have at the moment. This makes it hard to figure out when you’ll get a response. Be patient.

-When rejecting a query letter, most agents send a form rejection. Don’t take this personally. Some will give feedback, but that’s pretty rare at the querying stage. Don’t expect it. But, thank the agent if she takes the time to give it to you, even if you don’t agree with her feedback. Be polite.

-Some agents don’t reject query letters. If you don’t hear back from them, it’s a pass. Most of these agents state a time frame so you’ll know if you haven’t heard from them by then, they’ve passed. However, some don’t, so it’s a guessing game.

-For some agencies, a no from one agent is a no from all. This means you shouldn’t query another agent at that agency with the same project. If the agent you queried had thought someone else in the agency would be a better fit, she’d have passed your query to that agent.

-Many agencies will allow you to query more than one agent at their agency but not at the same time. You must wait until you’ve received a rejection or the time frame has passed before you query one of their colleagues.

-Often, an agent will give some sort of personal feedback when she rejects a full manuscript she requested. This isn’t always the case and shouldn’t be expected. In fact, a few agents won’t even reject your full manuscript. You’ll just never hear from them again, even if you nudge and ask the status of your manuscript. This can be frustrating, and you’ll probably wonder if she even received your full in the first place. She probably did. She’s just not that into it. You have no choice but to move on.

-Agent response times are all over the place. Some will read queries quickly and request material, only to sit on the partials or fulls for months. These are busy people. The fact that they haven’t read your requested material as quickly as they read your query doesn’t mean they aren’t excited about your story. It’s simply their process.

-Other agents will take between one and three months to read the queries and request. Some will then jump on the requested material, while others will take a while to get to their requested pile. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long it takes for an agent to read your work, it’s not an indication of their interest. If they hadn’t been interested in your manuscript, they wouldn’t have requested it. Period.

-Query Tracker is a great way to see roughly where you are in the querying line. Of course, this only works for agents who read queries in order. But, it’s neat to see that So-And-So queried the same agent a few days before you did and just got a request or a rejection. It tells you the agent will probably get to your query soon. There’s more to Query Tracker than this. Check it out. It’s a great tool for querying authors.

Come back next week to read the next part in this series.

Editing Update: My next available slot is February 13. Book now.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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What Do You Want in a Literary Agent?

For those of you who are querying agents, have you thought about why you’re doing this? Knowing why you want an agent and what you expect out of him/her could help you decide who to query and whose offer to accept when the time comes.

Take a look at the following questions and see what you’re really looking for in an agent.

Note: There are no right or wrong answers and no score at the end. These questions are to help fiction authors think about what it is they need in an agent/author relationship.

1. Do you want an editorial agent? If so, why? If not, why not?
Some writers want to have an editorial agent who will help them polish their work before they submit to editors. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to send the agent your first draft. You still have to do most of the editing work yourself. However, some writers don’t want their agent to critique their work because between the agent’s opinion and the editor’s feedback, it can feel overwhelming with too many cooks in the kitchen.

2. Do you want a new agent, an established agent, or someone in the middle?
New agents are still learning and might not have the connections that others have. However, they’ll have a lot of time and will be hungry. They’ll work extra hard for you to prove themselves and build their reputation. If they’re with an agency (and not on their own), other agents there might mentor them and be available when they get stuck. An established agent might be able to get you a better deal, but he/she might not have time for you. Which brings me to my next question.

3. Are you looking for a partner who will work with you? Or do you prefer to have someone to work for you? What’s the difference? Working with you means you and the agent will discuss options for your career. Working for you might mean you’re more interested in having the agent focus on the sales and royalty collection while you concentrate on your writing. In other words, some people want to communicate with their agents and others don’t want to be bothered unless something important comes up.

Note: Just a reminder, there are no wrong answers. You need to understand what kind of a relationship you want with your agent.

A part of understanding who will be a good fit for you is to know your vision for your career. Granted, this might change, but it’s good to have an idea in mind.

4. Are you planning on writing solely in one genre? If yes, why? If not, why not and in what other genre(s) do you want to write?

5. Do you want to only be traditionally published? Or do you want to be a hybrid (both traditionally and self-published)?

6. Are you able to produce one or more polished novels in a year? Did it take you ten years to complete the first book, and will it take another ten to finish the next? In other words, are you looking for an agent to represent this book and this book only? Or do you want someone who will be there during your career and help you sell as many books as you can pump out?

What other questions should you ask yourself before querying an agent?

Editing Update: I’ve added a new service to my website: developmental editing. I now offer three types of editing services for full manuscripts: a manuscript evaluation report, developmental editing, and a developmental/line editing combo.

My next available slot is February 13. Book now.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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You Don’t Have to Accept an Agent’s Offer of Representation

With all the offers of representation from agents coming in after Pitch Wars and Twitter pitch contests, I wanted to bring something up that’s hard for writers to accept.


Here’s the thing. Whether you’re querying or entering contests, if you get an offer of representation from an agent, the first thing you’re going to do is die. That’s automatic and expected. But once you pick yourself up off the floor, and you’ve had time to catch your breath, you need to evaluate the situation. Even if you’ve already done some research on this agent, dig deeper. Talk to her clients, and not just the ones she provides as references.

Ask yourself these questions:

-Am I satisfied with what I’ve learned about this agent?

-Do I have more questions for her? (If so, don’t be shy. Now is the time to ask.)

-Does he seem passionate about my story? Or is he giving me the money vibe? Translation: Do I feel like he sees me as dollar signs/easy sale? Or does he want to fight for this manuscript because he loves the story and characters as much as I do?

-Do I agree with her revision ideas (if any)? Do we share the same vision for this story?

-Am I satisfied with his answers to my questions? (You did ask him questions, right?)

-Is she hard to talk to? Or do we gel?

-Is he pushing me to give him a quick answer? (An agent should allow you at least a week to contact other agents who have your material in case they want to offer too. This time a year, two weeks is acceptable because everyone is busy. If an agent tells you to make your decision that day—or in a few day—and he won’t wait longer than that, he’s bullying you. Is that really the kind of relationship you want to have with an agent? Remember, not having an agent is better than having a bad one. You want to enter this relationship as partners not as his puppet.)

-Most importantly, what does my gut tell me? Do I want to accept this offer because I’m afraid nobody else will want to represent me? Or do I want to take this offer because it’s the right fit for my career?

Is it a risk to turn down an offer? Yes. There are no guarantees in life. However, there’s a strong probability that if you sign with the wrong person for the wrong reasons, you’ll regret it. So, take your time to make the right decision for you. Don’t worry about what anyone else says. This is your career. Your life. Only you can live it.

This is my last post for 2016. My 2015 Pitch Wars mentee will stop by in January to talk about her experience working with me and hooking her agent.

Editing News:
SALE on manuscript evaluation reports booked for January 2017 slots. Regular price is $0.015/word. Sale price: $0.01/word. For example: 80,000 words WAS $1,200 and is NOW $800. That’s HUGE savings, but you have to book ASAP.

Developmental/line editing combo SALE: Save up to $100 off a full manuscript edit for January 2017 slots.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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Great News!!!

Things have been pretty exciting around here lately. My 2015 Pitch Wars mentee M.C. Vaughan AND my 2016 mentee Meghan Jashinsky have acquired agents within weeks of each other. Cool beans! I’m so excited for them.

M.C. Vaughan signed with Barbara Rosenberg owner of The Rosenberg Group. M.C. knows how to write a contemporary romance. Her voice hooked me from the start.

Megan Jashinsky signed with Jessica Watterson with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Megan’s book is wonderfully dark. My co-mentor Destiny Cole and I drooled over her this story.

More to come on both these authors and our journey together.

EDITING SCHEDULE UPDATE: Save up to $100 on the first slots in 2017. I’m now booking my January slots for manuscript evaluation reports and developmental/line editing combos. Contact me at: for more details.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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How to Nudge Literary Agents

With Pitch Wars coming to an end, and many mentees receiving fantastic news from agents, I thought it would be a good time to talk about nudging agents when you receive an offer of representation.

If you’ve received that call or e-mail… Congratulations! But, it’s not time to celebrate just yet. If you have queries, partials, and/or fulls out, you need to let those agents know about your offer. If you know you want to accept the offer without giving anyone else a chance to win you over, notify all the other agents that you’ve received an offer and are going to accept it. However, if you want to see if anyone else would want to represent you, nudge them with your offer. How do you do this?

Destiny Cole wrote a great post about nudging agents here: She has templates in her post for nudging when an agent has your full, your partial, and just the query. Check it out, and good luck!

EDITING SCHEDULE UPDATE: Save up to $100 on the first slots in 2017. I’m now booking my January slots for manuscript evaluation reports and developmental/line editing combos. Contact me at: for more details.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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The Agent Showcase Is Coming

Guess what, peeps! The end of Pitch Wars 2016 is almost here, and you know what that means, right? The AGENT SHOWCASE!!!

What’s Pitch Wars? It’s a contest where agented and/or published authors and/or freelance editors mentor a writer for two months. At the end, there’s an agent showcase, where the writer’s pitch and first page are posted on Brenda Drake’s blog. Agents who are accepted into the showcase round will browse the pitches and make requests as they go. You can see who’s participating this year by going here: and here:

Usually, all the pitches are posted the same day, but this time, Brenda is trying something new. The agent showcase runs November 3—9. Here’s the schedule:
-November 3: Adult and New Adult entries go up on her blog
-November 4: MG entries go up
-November 5: YA entries go up
-November 9: Last day of Agent Showcase

Last year, I mentored in the adult category. This year, I teamed up with Destiny Cole to mentor in the young adult category. Our mentee is Meghan Jashinsky with COURT OF GLIMMERING CRIMSON. We’re really excited about her entry. It’s THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER meets THE YOUNG ELITES. Cool beans, right?

Let’s get the party started!

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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When “Nothing Happens” in a Scene

What does it mean when an agent or editor tells you nothing happens in a scene? I mean, there’s at least one character in the scene. Why do industry professionals think nothing is happening?

With some scenes, it’s pretty obvious. When you take a week or two away from your work and go back to that scene, you can see that nothing really is happening. These are the scenes where the character goes grocery shopping, and that’s it. Or he makes a meal and eats. YAWN. Or she gets up and gets ready. Or he drives from Point A to Point B, describing everything he sees as he goes. Or she thinks, and thinks, and thinks…

With other scenes, it might not be as obvious. For example, when you have two characters talking about something that happened in their past because you need the reader to know their backstory. If that’s all they’re doing, and nothing else happens, you probably have a backstory dump. It’s a good idea to use dialogue to show backstory instead of telling us about it. BUT, it still needs to be layered in. You shouldn’t have pages and pages of characters talking about their past because the main story has stopped. The reader is waiting for the characters to finish their conversation and get the real story going again.

Another type of scene that’s hard to peg is when characters are doing things and saying things, but what they’re doing and saying, as cute as they might be, aren’t moving the story forward. In other words, Joey and Nick might be having a blast doing cartwheels in the kitchen and laughing, but there’s no conflict. Other than the reader being able to see that these two kids get along well, he isn’t learning anything that will help advance the story. Now, if you really like this scene, you can combine it with another or add to it to make it work. For example, the boys might still be goofing around in the kitchen, but maybe one of them knocks over his mom’s antique vase and it breaks. There’s conflict. How the boys react and what they plan to do next is what will help advance the story and show us their character.

Beware of scenes that function only as entertainment. Sometimes, a scene might be well written and your friends and family might love it, but if it doesn’t move the story forward or reveal something about the character’s arc, it probably doesn’t belong. This can happen when a character does something out of place. Even if the scene works on its own, it doesn’t work with the rest of the story. For example, when an intruder breaks into Jen’s house, she grabs a gun and shoots the guy. BUT, up until now, Jen has always been afraid of guns and against their use. Why would she suddenly have a gun AND know how to use it? So, while the scene works on its own—woman protects herself by shooting intruder—it doesn’t work in this story because Jen is acting out of character.

Or maybe the scene shows that Bob is really good at stealing jewelry. But, we already know that because we’ve already seen him steal jewelry in another scene. So, unless something new happens in this scene, something that will complicate his journey, we don’t need to see another scene like it.

A scene only belongs in your story if it moves the story forward and/or shows a part of the character’s arc.

What are some other examples of scenes where nothing happens?

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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Agent Response Times – What Do They Mean?

If you’re querying agents, you’re probably checking your inbox every day. Ah. Who am I kidding? You’re checking it every hour, aren’t you? Maybe more often? Don’t worry. You aren’t alone.

Querying can be tough. All the waiting. And the rejections. And the waiting. Did I mention the waiting? When you get a response (a request or rejection), you can’t help but wonder why this agent responded so quickly and that agent is still reading your query. Or maybe you have full manuscripts out and some agents are responding a lot faster than others. Are you trying to figure out what their response times mean? If this agent responded within a week, does it mean she really hated your writing? If that agent still hasn’t responded after six months, does it mean he wasn’t hooked enough to dive right in? Is all of this giving you a headache? Keeping you up at night? Or causing you to need an extra dose of chocolate?

No worries. I have the answer. I know what the response times mean. Get ready for this. Momentary pause. Cue elevator music. Another pause. Drum roll… If an agent responds immediately or takes months to do so, it means NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. Stop reading into this, peeps. You’re causing yourself a whole lot of stress that your body doesn’t need.

Okay, let’s be real for a second. Agent response times mean SOMETHING just not what you THINK they mean.

Here are some of the reasons an agent might respond quickly:

-She has an assistant whose job is mainly to go through the slush and/or read subs as they come in.

-He’s all caught up on client work and submission reading, so he can jump right on yours.

-She doesn’t represent your genre, so she rejected the query as soon as she read it.

-He didn’t need to read the full to know this wasn’t the right project for him. You know they don’t usually read the whole manuscript, right? They stop as soon as they lose interest.

-She’s actively seeking this genre, so when your sub came in, she pushed it to the top of her pile.

-He was really excited about the story based off the query and has been watching for it.

-You have an offer of representation on the table and a deadline for agents to meet before you make your decision. Don’t try to speed up response times by pretending you have an offer. Some agents will check up on your offer. Some will instant reject because they won’t be able to read as fast as you need them to read. Some will reevaluate the query and sample pages and might decide they aren’t excited enough to fight for it.

-If you’ve won major contests with this manuscript, she might want to read it sooner rather than later.

-If you have a request from a publisher, especially one of the Big Five, he’ll probably want to add your MS to the top of his list.

Here are some of the reasons an agent might not respond for a long, long time (translation: eternity):

-She’s behind on her reading. Some agents have little time to read subs and quickly get behind on their reading, which is why some agents can take six months to a year to read your full.

-He’s a really popular agent who receives a gazillion queries A DAY, and it takes a while for his assistant to sort through the queries and requested material.

-She took time off to have a baby and didn’t do any reading while she was away.

-He didn’t read during July and August because he was busy with conferences and his vacation.

-She took on several new clients this year and is busy helping them polish their stories so she can submit them to editors.

-He’s been dealing with health issues or family issues or someone close to him died. Basically, life is getting in the way.

-She’s busy, busy, busy. Oh, yeah, and she’s busy.

My point is that you can get requests within an hour, though that’s rare, and receive a response up to a year after you’ve submitted your full manuscript. I know authors who have gotten an offer of representation within days of submitting their full. Others had assumed the agent was no longer interested because she’d had it for almost a year, but once she got to it, she loved it and offered representation.

In other words…

Don’t. Give. Up. Hope.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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When to Check #MSWL (the Manuscript Wish List Hashtag)

Recently, I talked about #MSWL (the hashtag for Manuscript Wish List), where agents and editors post what they’d like to see in their inboxes. If you missed that post, check it out here: What I didn’t talk about in that post is when you should or shouldn’t check this hashtag. Let’s go over that today.

Okay, I’ll admit I peruse that hashtag often because I’m curious what agents want right now. This helps me get an idea of the market, which means I can offer more up-to-date advice when working with authors on their stories and query letters. If you pop over there occasionally to see what’s hot at the moment, that’s fine, but don’t make the mistake others have made. Don’t use the #MSWL as a way to come up with story ideas.

Why not?

Because by the time you write and polish your story, the agent might have already found a story like it, or the market might have changed and he/she no longer wants it. The exception, of course, is for those who can pump out quality books in weeks or a few months instead of a year. Even then, there’s the risk that the agent might have been inundated with similar stories. How would yours stand out? Maybe your story would be different enough, but there’s definitely more of a risk writing this way.

A better way to use #MSWL, and the way it’s intended to be used, is for you to scan the hashtag when you’re ready to query. That way, you’ll know which of the agents on the hashtag (or website) are specifically looking for stories like yours.

Another way to use the hashtag is to go through agent wish lists during your final revision round. Maybe your story fits exactly what an agent wants, except, ah crap, your story has pink unicorns, and pink unicorns aren’t selling. Better to know now, rather than after you’ve queried all your favorite agents, right? All you have to do is change the pink unicorns to something else. Ha. Look at that. Pink unicorns aren’t selling, but one of your top agents wants flying giraffes. Hold on a second. What’s that? Your story would still work if you replaced the pink unicorns with flying giraffes AND it wouldn’t add much time to your revision schedule so you could still query in a month or two? Woohoo! Go for it. Assuming you’re okay with the change. It is your story, after all.

There’s a BUT to add to the advice I just gave you. It’s still important for you to know your market. What has sold recently? Check Publisher’s Marketplace. What’s hot in the bookstores? And be cautious. Some agents have very eclectic tastes. If only one agent wants flying giraffes, but the others all want pigacorns (pigs with a unicorn horn), you might want to reconsider adding flying giraffes to your story. It might be a harder sell. Plus, if many agents are asking for pigacorns, that’s probably an indication that editors are asking for them, which means an easier sell for agents and you.

The #MSWL is a great tool for those querying, especially since some agents add more details about what they’re currently seeking on the hashtag than what they have posted on their agency’s website. But, if you don’t see your type of story mentioned on the hashtag, it doesn’t mean agents don’t want it, so don’t get discouraged. Query anyway.

Good luck on your agent/editor search.

UPDATE: Save up to $100 on a developmental/line editing combo or a manuscript evaluation report. November slot only. One slot left. Book now. Contact me at: for details.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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Social Media and You

If you’re a published author or you want to become published, you should be aware of your social media presence and how others perceive you. Understand that what you say online stays there forever. Whether it’s on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or another social media site, what you post, even after you delete it, can NOT be removed from the Internet 100%.

Why is that a big deal? Well, if you’re posting potentially alienating material like writing your opinion on politicians, religion, and other hot-button issues, you might regret it once readers pounce on your comments. Sure, you could argue it’s your opinion and you have a right to it. This is true. Whether or not you should share that opinion publically, especially if it’s a strong one, remains to be seen.

Take politics for example. Last night, tons of people watched the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And, unfortunately, many people also posted their very strong opinions about this debate. Why is this an issue? Because these opinions are alienating. If you are trying to build your brand and your readership, which you should be doing if you’re published or want to be, you could be insulting some of your followers who might believe the opposite of what you believe.

I’m not saying most people decide they won’t buy your books if you don’t share the same beliefs as them, but if you really clash with their beliefs, they might find it difficult to follow you on social media. Why is this a big deal? Because social media is a great way for you to stay in a reader’s mind. Not everyone can publish a book every few months. If it takes a year or longer before your next book is released, it’s easy for readers to forget to watch for it. However, if you’re on social media, you can announce to the world that your new release is coming up. I’m not telling you to spam people’s Twitter or Facebook feeds. And please DON’T send private messages to your followers unless you actually KNOW them. That’s spam too. But my point is that social media can be a wonderful marketing tool if used properly. Don’t alienate followers. You need them.

The same goes for publically bashing other people, especially those in this industry. Most of us have heard about the guy who tore apart an agent who didn’t live up to his expectations when he met her at a conference. This same guy also posts EVERY REJECTION he receives on his blog. Why would someone do this? Maybe he thinks he’s cool or funny. Nope. Not even close. Instead, he got a good dose of Karma when other writers and industry professionals put him in his place. This is a small industry. Don’t think something like this won’t affect your career. It will. Agents have already posted that they’ve blacklisted him. Can he recover? Yes, but it’ll mean changing his name and e-mail address if he wants to get through their spam filters.

I also often see authors criticizing other authors (or their books), and authors attacking reviewers for posting bad reviews. Granted, there are trolls out there who target authors and post bad reviews. I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to authors who don’t have a thick skin and let bad reviews get to them. Readers, other authors, reviewers, and industry professionals see your negative behavior if you post something nasty on social media.

So, if you have a career in publishing (or you plan to), keep in mind that what you post on social media can and will hurt you if others see your comments in a negative light. Be careful. Be respectful. Be kind. Those are the people others want to follow on social media.

UPDATE: I have an open editing slot for November. Save up to $100 on this slot. Book it now. Contact me at:

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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