Thursday, May 2, 2013

Learning the Secret Agent Language

Do you ever get emails like this?

Compliments,

I am Mr.Van Voorst the former Sales Manager in the SNS Bank Rotterdam area
but am now based in United Kingdom after I retired, I have a proposal to
discuss with you is about a certain bonded account in SNS bank, which
shares the same last name with yours, Please contact me through my email
if you are interested to know more.

It will be beneficial to all parties concerned.

I didn't even have to open the email to know it was fake? Why? The language of the subject line: "This will be beneficial to all parties concern."

I don't bring this up to slam on anyone or get into a discussion of email spamming. Or to have a discussion of the finer intricacies of grammar.

Instead, how can we avoid looking naive or inept when we submit?
This ties into a post I read recently on SheWrites about "agent stalking."

We've all heard how important it is to research agents before submitting. Look for interviews by them. Go to sites like Literary Rambles. Know their submission preferences. Some prefer email attachments, but I've heard another agent say she never opens email attachments from an unknown source for fear of getting a bad virus instead of a bad query.

The SheWrites poster went one step further. Before querying an agent, she suggests following him or her on Twitter, and reading the agents tweets, or tweets about them, for at least a couple of weeks before you submit. That way,for example, you can learn about their extreme dislike of anything Star Trek before you submit a book with "Based on my popular Star Trek fan fiction blog" in the subject line.

My example: I plan to pitch to an agent I just learned doesn't particularly care for voice-driven books. In an interview, she said she prefers strong plots and fast pacing. I'd planned to present a book that's strongest in voice. Besides my momentary desire to drown my frustration in chocolate, I now know I need to reassess which book I present to her, and particularly how I pitch it.

Fortunately, knowing an agent's tastes and pet peeves isn't so secret in this internet age. Since we don't want our queries deleted before our emails are even opened, we're going to have to take some time to learn each agent's preference language.