I'd like to welcome Dawn Dowdle to Suspense, She Writes. Dawn has graciously agreed to share her thoughts about things that make an agent cringe.
Some of the things that make me cringe are queries sent in that clearly show the author hasn’t done their homework. What homework? They haven’t researched the word count for their genre. They don’t know their genre, they’ve listed many genres so they hopefully cover one the agent wants. Often I get queries that don’t follow the clear instructions listed on my agency website. This is another case of not doing your homework.
Another thing that makes me cringe is authors who say their book is the next Harry Potter or the next Twilight. You get the picture. Yes, you need to tout your book, but tout ITS merits not that it is like another book. I do like some comparison, just be mindful there are some that have been overdone.
One of the major things that can make me cringe (and actually confirms I was right in rejecting) is receiving a long diatribe back from an author telling me how I don’t know my business and their book is so wonderful and why I shouldn’t have rejected.
Sending an e-mail full of typos or no punctuation (yes, we’ve gotten these) or a manuscript with Track Changes still on or that hasn’t been read by anyone other than the author can make me cringe. It is rare that the author can edit their own work well enough to have an agent consider, much less represent it. This has happened in my agency once that I’m aware of. Writers’ groups and critique partners are vital to an author. You need cold readers who aren’t your spouse or your best friend or your family so they can be honest and help you make your manuscript shine.
Now, some things that do NOT make me cringe are a well-written query letter with a well-edited manuscript sent in the format requested, in a genre I represent and with a word count that fits the genre. Please know that you might have the best book written, but if it isn’t a genre I represent, you’re wasting your time. I am not going to take it on just because it’s so well written. I don’t have the right contacts to sell it effectively and you shouldn’t want that for your book either.
An agent can be your best friend or your worst enemy as you can see from what I have written above. We want to help the authors get their books to the right publishers and make them and their book shine. With the author’s help that can be achieved. I have some great authors who listen and want to be a part of the process. Those are the authors who will succeed in this industry. They are the ones that will do what it takes to make their work better and interact with the readers. There is nothing more an agent wants to see than an author stepping up to the plate and doing what is needed for the team--that is what an agent and author are, a TEAM.
Dawn Dowdle is the Owner and Literary Agent of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, LLC (www.blueridgeagency.com) in Virginia, which she founded in 2009. Prior to establishing her agency, Dawn Dowdle was a freelance copy editor. She started her agency to help authors, especially new authors. She represents mysteries (including cozy mysteries), romances, some women’s fiction and Young Adult. Recent publications include: Forget Me Knot by Mary Marks, One Dog Too Many by Lia Farrell, All or Nothing by Dixie Lee Brown, Her Knight in Black Leather by JM Stewart, Santa Wore Leathers by Vonnie Davis and The Hourglass by Sharon Struth. Instructions for querying are on the website.
Dawn Dowdle participates in several writing conferences each year. In her down time, she reads cozy mysteries and enjoys a close relationship with her family.
Many authors would love to know how an agent thinks. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on what makes an agent cringe, Dawn.