How getting a literary agent is like winning the lottery.

I wanted to write about something different today: literary agents. The holy grail of an aspiring author. A lot of people compare finally getting an agent to winning the lottery, while others say it’s skill and perseverance that gets you there. I agree with both. While hard work is what makes your writing good, getting an agent (and getting published) does rely on some degree of luck. So I’ve made a list of just how much luck you need to land that agent offer.

There are six numbers on the average lottery ticket, and there are six criteria for an agent that are pure luck:

  1. Subject matter. The agent has to personally like what you’re writing about. Whether vampires or the revolutionary war, this has to be a subject they’re passionate about.
  2. Voice. The agent has to be enthralled with the writing. Some like it flowery and others like it concise. It’s all subjective.
  3. Characters. The agent has to connect with the characters on a deep and personal level. Care for them the way you, the writer, does. This is kind of like dating, and we all know how hard dating is.
  4.  You. The agent has to be on the same wavelength as you, the writer. Agents facilitate writing careers, not just sell a book. The two of you have to mesh in order to work together, and a clash of personalities will only get in the way of that. Also, if an agent asks for revisions you don’t want or has a different vision for your book, they may not be a good fit either.
  5. Current clients. Your work may be amazing, but if the agent already has a client with a very similar work, you’re out of luck.
  6. Current publishing trends. You may have written the perfect dystopian novel, but publishers just aren’t buying them anymore and an agent won’t waste time trying to sell it. Time to shelve it for another day and write a different book.


And there we go! Six lottery numbers that you have to draw before you hit the jackpot, and that’s after writing the perfect novel. So good luck to all you querying writers out there, may the odds be ever in your favor.

PS: For anyone just entering the querying world, check out – a 100% free querying resource to get you started.


New to querying? This new (free!) tool will help you write one and avoid auto-rejections.


Querying agents and publishers is hard. I know it because I’ve been there. When I first began looking into the process it was overwhelming. So many blog posts, and twitter tags, and dos and don’t and still I made simple mistakes that could have been avoided if I’d only read that one extra tweet.

When I finally got the querying process down, I tried to help others. I browsed Reddit, and writing forums, and Facebook, but the questions seemed to be all the same. So I decided that instead of repeating info, I was going to compile it into an easy to use tool for writers new to querying. I didn’t want it to be just another blog post. I wanted it to be more. A link anyone can post when someone says ‘how do I  write a query?’ and provide a complete answer.

The first thing I did was put together all the information I’ve gathered over the years. My first query was in 2015, so there’s a whole lot I picked up.

Second, I needed a website. So I went to the library and got the HTML5 and CSS3 All in One for Dummies book by Andy Harris. I took a month to read it, take notes, and figure it out until I felt ready to begin developing my vision.

And then, after weeks of writing (and rewriting) code and making it look the way I wanted to, Query Letter Builder was born. It has everything I wanted:

  • A pre-querying questionnaire to make sure you’re ready to query.
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to write a query.
  • Tips on how to get your query noticed.
  • Warnings on how to avoid auto-rejections.
  • Resources for querying and getting critique/feedback.

Once I thought it was good to go, I emailed some agents asking for them to take a look and let me know what they think. The responses I got were incredibly positive! They thought it was a great resource for writers, even though they couldn’t provide a quote to avoid issues with it being promoted by the agency. I incorporated the few tips they had and now it’s available for everyone to use.

So if you, or anyone you know, is looking to begin querying, keep Query Letter Builder in mind!

Querying advice you won’t find anywhere else.

It’s finally that time – my manuscript is polished and ready to be sent out. I wrote my hooky query letter, synopsis, author bio, and thought I was ready.

Boy was I wrong.

So let me save you some time and show you what I’ve learned that I haven’t seen on other query advice sites.

1. It takes forever.

It took me over 4 hours to query 15 agents. That’s roughly 20 minutes per agent. I’m using QueryTracker so finding them isn’t the issue. It’s everything else.

2. Pay attention to detail.

Every agency has special submission policies you can find on their website. If you’re using QueryTracker do not just assume they don’t have guidelines if they didn’t post them in their info. Here are some examples:

  • Send only query letter with salutations to agent.
  • Send only query letter to agency but do not mention an agent.
  • Send query letter and 1-2 page synopsis in body of email.
  • Send query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and first 5/10/50 pages of manuscript in body of email.
  • Send query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and first 3 chapters of manuscript in body of email.
  • Send query letter, a chapter by chapter synopsis, and the entire manuscript as an attachment.

See what I mean?

3. Subject line matters.

Same thing with email subject. Some want QUERY, QUERY Title of Book, QUERY Name of Agent, etc. Make sure you find this info out before emailing or your query might get immediately trashed.

4. Pick one agent per agency.

Almost every agency has several agents who like different genres. You have to read every agent’s bio in order to find the right fit for your query and only query that person. They don’t like it if you email more than one agent in the same agency, so your best bet is to pick one and go for it (and make sure you keep track). Some agents and agencies specifically list genres they don’t represent. That’s kind of important.

5. You will probably get a heart attack.

Some agents take days while others take months to respond. Some have autoreplies while others have nothing. Basically, you’re in limbo. Every time your phone buzzes with an email for the next month it will make you jump. If you have anxiety, this is going to suck.

6. An agency is not always a publishing company.

There are many agents with individual agencies who sell your manuscript to a publishing company. You can tell because the name is usually the company name (Ex: Sue Moor with Moor Inc.). And that’s ok. Companies like Scholastic do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so if your next Hunger Games gets an agent it can go anywhere. You don’t need a full representation and publishing company to be successful.

7. Don’t doubt yourself.

It will make you question your manuscript. Even if you’ve been working on it for five years. Stay strong!

8. Don’t forget!

And lastly, don’t forget your contact info! Every query I’ve seen requires three things: genre, word count, and contact info. If you have those, you’re on your way!

Oh boy I can’t wait for my first rejection!

Happy querying!