Like many aspiring authors I’ve been reading the Novelicious feature ‘What an Agent Wants’ with an eagle eye. I was cringing my way through reading ‘What are the five most common mistakes you find in Manuscript submissions’ – of course I’d made a few of them. What grabbed my attention most in the post wasn’t what the agents said, it was one of the comments below. Someone had posted that they couldn’t believe that people still made those mistakes. It is an extremely valid point and one that got me wondering: why do writers make the same mistakes, even though we know they are wrong?
Firstly for me, I have this utterly ridiculous notion that agents will see through any mistakes I make in a submission because they’ll also see the magic in my writing. I’ve thought it time and time again when I’ve subbed. I can almost hear myself say it, it’s a bit rough around the edges but they’ll see the potential. I guess part of the problem is how attached you get to your book, and how invested you are in it. It's really hard to be objective and to realise that agents have hundreds of submissions a monthpotential, and you need to give much ore than that.
The second reason I think I make some of the mistakes mentioned in the agent series, is that I’m trying to put too much of myself into a pitching letter. For instance, my cringe-fest of an original submission letter which was more about my boyfriend then the book I was pitching. A lot of agents state that they want to get a feel for the person behind the letters they are reading. This presents a problem to me.. what if my definition of a reflection of my personality doesn't actually come across as endearing and quirky as I’d hoped, but as unprofessional and a little psychotic?
Something that has been hit home while reading ‘What an Agent Wants’ is that all the agents want different things. Each agent is an actual person, with opinions of their own. So it stands to reason that one agent's horror of a faux pas might be something that attracts another agent to an author.
There’s also loads of conflicting information about what to sub. Some agent websites call for submissions with comparisons of similar books and where it sits in the market e.g. ‘Bridget Jones meets The Notebook’; whereas other agents detest that type of information as they feel that is something they could do better, with a professional eye, when pitching to publishers.
So how does an aspiring author navigate this minefield? My guess is good and thorough research of the agent you’re subbing to. I’ve only just started sending out my latest novel, and I’ve drastically changed my approach. Gone are my blanket subs to every agent under the sun. And in its place is my plan to sub my book to one agent at a time. This time I’ll research the individual agent I’m sending it to, making sure I find out as much as possible before sending my manuscript. The commenter was right: it is about time we stop making the same old mistakes.