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Agent for a Day

on April 18th, 2009 by Shannon

Literary agent Nathan Bransford recently conducted a little experiment that he dubbed “Agent for a Day” in which everyone who wanted to participate (namely aspiring authors) were invited to read 50 actual query letters on his blog and pick the ones most likely to be published.

His results will appear later this week, but for the record, my choices were 10, 17, 21, 27, and 35. I did not actually get on to post my rejections, mostly because I was deterred by Nathan’s remark about 10,000 comments to wade through. Apparently this was a popular little test!

And I enjoyed it. I learned something from it. For instance, I found I wanted to get right into the story. I didn’t care about how the auther knew the agent, or why they thought their novel was a good fit. Maybe this is because I’m not really an agent, but I just wanted to get to the meat!

 Second, if it dragged on for more than two paragraphs, my eyes glazed over. Too much. This is the appetizer, not the main course.

Also, I didn’t care about the writer’s credentials, which surprised me. I’ve spent the last two years trying to amass those publication credits! They count, right? Not for me. Unless a publication name jumped out at me, I skipped them. A notable exception is in the non-fiction entries. Then I did want to know their background. But only then.

So to sum up, listen to what those agents have been trying to tell us! Janet Reid doesn’t beat us about the head with our own mistakes over at Queryshark for her own amusement. (Not entirely, anyway.) Hook the reader. Be brief. Don’t waste your 300 words talking about your cat. And above all, be grateful I’m not an agent. I’d suck at it.

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