Physicians who want to increase the odds of getting their book published by a traditional book publisher will want to acquire a literary agent. Literary agents sort through many query letters when selecting a new author to contact. Here are eight ways to make sure your query letter is well received by literary agents.
1) Well written and error free
Agents will judge the quality of your writing not from your book, but from your query letter. Your query needs to be well written, engaging, and able to capture the interest of the agent. In addition, your query must be mistake free as agents can afford to be very selective, rejecting query letters with typographical or grammatical errors.
2) Comply with the submission requirements of the agent
All agents will specify on their websites how they want to receive submissions (i.e. electronically, snail mail, etc.) It is crucial for physicians to follow precisely the guidelines provided by the agent. If a one page query letter and three page outline is requested, do not submit your entire book.
3) Be selective
After researching potential agents, only submit your query to agents who are interested in the genre you are writing in. It makes no sense to submit query letters for science fiction when the agent specifically says she is not interested in science fiction.
4) One page
All query letters should be one page and one page only. Write and re-write your query until you have reduced it to one great, well-written, enticing page
5) One book at a time
One of the pet peeves of most literary agents is new authors who “pitch” multiple books in one query. The agent is interested in one book she can sell and will worry about additional books in the future
6) Your contact information
Include your full contact information: cell #, email address, etc. on your query letter. There is nothing more frustrating for an agent than receiving an excellent query and then trying to track down the author.
7) Cover the plot, characters, and resolution
Authors need to include a basic plot and character summary in the query and include the conflict and resolution. Agents have no time or inclination to either be left to figure out the plot, characters, or endings of the book.
Agents get hundreds or sometimes thousands of query letters. It may take the agent months to reply to your query. Do not bombard the agent with emails, letters, phone calls, etc. This will be counterproductive.
By virtue of your medical qualifications and a well-written query, you will get a hard look by agents. Working extremely hard on your query letter until it is exceptional will increase your chances for being accepted by the agent.
For more on making money from writing, please see SEAK’s seminar, How to Earn Money as a Physician Writer, which will be held on September 20-21 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. SEAK’s current schedule of seminars for physicians can be found by clicking here.