Querying can be a tricky and time-consuming process which can understandably become a bit frustrating with each agency having a different policy on how to submit. As the Submissions Coordinator for the agency inbox, I read every single query letter that is submitted to Holloway Literary. Here are a few tips that I would recommend to make your submission stand out.
Always Research an Agency’s Submission Guidelines
If you’re like me, the first thing you’ll probably think of is that “guidelines” are just guidelines, not rules. This isn’t quite the case with submission guidelines though. These guidelines really should be treated as rules. If you’ve submitted to us and hadn’t quite followed our guidelines, you’ve probably heard from me. Now, it’s not a bad thing to hear from me. Interacting with authors is great, but it can be very time consuming. For that reason, many agencies won’t respond back and will use the guidelines as way to weed out some submissions. While this may seem harsh, agents are looking for more than just a great manuscript; they are also looking for writers they can work well with and can pay attention to instructions.
Our submission guidelines can be found on our website under each agent’s name. When submitting to us, please have the agent’s name, the manuscript title, and the genre in the email’s subject line and copy and paste the query and the first 15 pages of your manuscript into the body of the email.
Know What the Agent Is Looking For
This tip goes hand in hand with the one above. Research the agent prior to submitting. Your time is valuable! Don’t waste your time by submitting to an agent who doesn’t represent your genre of work. If you are querying a screenplay, make sure to submit to an agent who represents screenplays. You can find links below to what our agents are looking for in a manuscript.
- Nikki Terpilowski: https://hollowayliteraryagency.com/nikki-terpilowski/
- Rachel Burkot: https://hollowayliteraryagency.com/rachel-burkot/
- Michael Caligaris: https://hollowayliteraryagency.com/michael-caligaris/
Always list your manuscript’s word count in your query, but also please know the standard word count for the genre that you are writing in prior to submitting. For Holloway Literary, If the word count is too far over or under, you will be notified and asked to resubmit only when the standard word count is met. If you receive this notification, don’t take it personally. It’s nothing against you as a writer, it’s just what publishing houses are accepting at this time. While there are classics out there with significantly lower word counts, often times they were published over thirty years ago when the publishing environment was different from what it is today. Of course, there are more recent examples of published works that have very high word counts, but it is always recommended that debut novelist stick as close to the standard word count as possible. I’ll list below a few of the word count ranges for the genres we receive most often.
- Literary: 70,000-100,000
- Women’s: 80,000-100,000
- Memoir: 80,000-90,000
- Thriller, Suspense: 80,000-90,000
- Science Fiction/Fantasy: 80,000-120,000
- Romance: 70,000-95,000
- Young Adult: 50,000-80,000 (Word count can go higher if science fiction or fantasy.)
- Middle Grade: 25,000-55,000
I cannot stress this enough. Always include a query letter or proposal in your submission email. While vast majority have this in their submission, we do receive some that only have the first 15 pages of the manuscript attached. The query portion is vital because it gives us more information about what the manuscript will be about and gives us a feel for who the author is. Always include the word count, a brief synopsis, and a brief author bio including any previous writing experience and/or publications. Also, it’s always a smart idea to include comparable titles!
How to Respond to Rejections or Notifications Regarding Word Count
I understand that querying can be frustrating. I’m sure that most of you would prefer writing your next novel instead of querying. I get it. I know that it’s even more challenging to receive rejection letters or to hear that your novel’s word count isn’t where it should be. Unfortunately, rejection plays a large role in the publishing industry, and it happens to all of us, authors and agents alike. It’s important to remember not to lash out with your frustrations though. We’re all human. Even though all communication in regard to submissions is done through email, it doesn’t mean that a robot or computer is reading them on the other side. I see every single email that comes through our submission inbox. If you ever feel as though your frustrations may take control, take a few deep breaths and walk away for a while. Please try to be as polite as possible or just don’t respond back.
Finally, if you have any questions in regard to the status of your submission and the our response time has passed, please always feel free to reach out! I try to get back to all status check emails as quickly as possible.