How do you query a literary agent?
A literary agent is the person who will try and get a publisher for a writer’s manuscript. If the agent loves your work, they will agree to represent you for about a 15% cut of the deal they broker. It’s in your and their best interest that they get you the best, highest-paying deal.
Most writers want an agent, but it’s not that easy to get one. They are busy people and want to invest their time in people and books they believe are marketable. Every writer would love to email an agent a copy of their manuscript, have them assess it and come back to them with good news, but that’s not how it works.
All agent have rules. I’ve been discovering lots of them in my search for an agent.
- Some agents have enough clients and are not accepting submissions from new authors.
- Some agents will allow you to submit a few sample chapters, a synopsis of your book and details about yourself.
- Some agents want to receive a one page letter convincing them that your book will be of interest to their agency.
Today I sent off the one page letter to an agency and withing a couple of hours they asked me to send my full manuscript. Here’s the letter I submitted.
Hi Ms XXXXXXXXXX,
My name is Steve Castley. I am a 63 year old gay Australian male living in Bali, Indonesia. I want you to represent me and my fiction book, The Maiden Aunts.
In 2015, a photo of a beautiful, aging, lesbian couple appeared on Facebook. Its caption called for marriage equality in Australia. Captivated by this image I wrote the first chapter of The Maiden Aunts. Preoccupied with finishing another manuscript, I let The Maiden Aunts sit for more than a year, but it was constantly in my mind suggesting settings, scenes, story lines and character descriptions. I’ve been a school principal in rural Queensland, a closeted gay man, an artist, traveller and more. It is not surprising that the book is set around St George in western Queensland, Sydney and surrounds, and Paris; all places I’m familiar with. My characters became a composite of people I’ve known or imagined. Bess and Anne were born on neighbouring properties outside St George in 1940 and they are the maiden aunts. Bess is a successful Australian Artist and Anne is a country lawyer promoting women. The art of Pro Hart, Whiteley, Preston and Blackman has always interested me, so not surprisingly, Bess and Anne cross paths with them as the story unfolds. Gradually my thoughts came together and I knew I had a compelling story to write.
Early 2017, I was ready to devote myself to writing The Maiden Aunts and the writing-feedback-editing-rewriting process began. After nearly 2 years I have a book that is ready to be shared. The Maiden Aunts (85,700 words) is a rural Australian family saga that spans 75 years from 1940 to 2015. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the five main characters.
The Maiden Aunts explores relationship equality, Australian art history, rural life and practices, family, aging, love, fear and survival. Some of my Beta readers have compared my book to ‘A Place to Call Home’, but I jokingly refer to it as ‘Thornbirds’ without the religion. This novel is fast paced, has many interesting characters and is often humorous. Even my harshest critics consider that I have crafted an entertaining and compelling tale. While same sex themes appear in the book, it has been written with a mainstream audience in mind. I believe in my book and am prepared to make editorial improvements if they are considered necessary.
I have a synopsis ready to share and The Maiden Aunts is finished and also ready to be reviewed.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Steve Castley I don’t have an agent yet, but I do have an agent reading my manuscript. Maybe I’ll get good news in the next month and maybe not, but I’m no quitter and will keep querying until I get an agent.