Agency Lessons: a mistake that can cost you big time

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

There's one thing in querying that drives me nuttier than a fruitcake, and I know I'm not the only agent who feels this way. So here's the one thing that will get your query sent directly to the dust bin without any reply:

A mass email

Oh, did you think it was going to be something bigger, grander, more in your face? Nope. This one thing is how to ensure I never even read your query. I've actually gotten two of these in the past week, both of them sent to my personal email instead of my query email. While I am closed to queries. And one of them suggested that any agent who didn't respond was a spineless fool. Nice. But even with all of those egregious errors, the massive list of recipients is the worst offense.

Here's why.

Anywhere you look online or in those helpful books that are everywhere, you will be advised to query each agent separately. Why? Because every agent is looking for something different. We don't do this to be difficult, but because every agent needs something different in order for them to make an informed decision about your work.

Is this more work than sending out one massive email? You bet ya! Tough titties.

Here's what I hear when I see one of these in my inbox:

Hi person whose name I was too busy to look up,
I am a very important person who is looking for the fast and easy way to get published, and will not understand when it is revealed that publishing is neither fast or easy. And even though I know this isn't the way I'm supposed to query you, I'm doing it this way anyway, because I feel that I don't have to follow the rules. I realize that if I'm your client, you will send pitches to individual editors, so clearly I think my time is more valuable than yours. I will also be a huge pain in your a** because I don't have any understanding of this industry I am asking to be a part of. Thanks for taking more time to read this than I put into sending it.
Narcissistic Author

Harsh? Maybe, but there is too much to be done in this day and age to waste time on someone who shows from the start a serious lack of respect. If this is simply a case of being unaware, I feel the same. Again, if you want to be a part of this industry, you owe it to yourself to learn about it before jumping in with both feet.

So let me be very clear in case there is even an ounce of confusion when it comes to queries. Do not send a bulk email to every agent for whom you have an address. Do send an individual email to each agent you have researched and determined to be a good match for you, following their guidelines exactly as they have them listed clearly on their website.