Query by email to email@example.com -- with sample chapters sent as an attachment, or pasted into the body of the email. (Attachments work better.)
Notice: Beginning August 9, 2011, Secret Agent Man will no longer accept queries by USPS (snail mail). In other words, no paper queries or submissions -- electronic only.
When querying by email make sure the word "Query" is somewhere in the subject line. If it isn't, it may (and probably will) go into the spam folder, and it will disappear forever.
Include sample chapters and synopsis and/or outline.
To be honest, it's nearly impossible to judge your work based a query letter or synopsis alone. We'd prefer see the "real thing" rather than a description of it. Oh, and send the first 3-to-5 chapters, not non-sequential chapters (like 6, 17 and 34).
Don't expect a quick reply. You may hear something in a day, or six weeks. Please be patient, though you're welcome to send a little "reminder" if you wish.
Please, no phone calls pitching a manuscript. You have our permission to submit. (Everything sounds good on the phone, but the actual writing tells the real story.)
Oh, and unpublished works only, please. If you've "self-published," or "e-published" best of luck to you, but it's not something Secret Agent Man will represent.
- Mystery (detective, procedural, hard-boiled, noir, amateur, humorous).
- Suspense/Thriller (espionage, action, light paranormal).
- Westerns (modern or classic).
- Christian fiction.
However . . .
- Not really interested in vampire, sci-fi, fantasy or horror.
- Animal detectives or cooking fiction is not my cup of tea.
- Thrillers, yes; cold war, military or political thrillers, no.
- Non-fiction is rarely considered, though there are exceptions.
- No children's manuscripts or young adult novels.
- No short story, screenplays or poetry collections.
- Though I'm personally fond of romance and history, I don't represent romance or historical fiction.
- Christian non-fiction should be based on Biblical theology, not speculative.
- And, alas, I do not handle self-published work because, well . . . it's already been published.
- Do be professional and to the point. Rambling or jokey queries don't work well.
- Do tell a little about yourself in your query, even if it's not writing related. (But just a little -- a biography is too much.)
- Do make sure your novel is absolutely ready. Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors equals a decline. Seriously.
- Do address your submission to me personally (Scott Mortenson). "Dear Agent" or "To Whom It May Concern" is a wee bit impersonal and annoys me. (It also helps to get my name right -- it's not that hard.)
- Don't use terms like "this is an exciting novel" or "I've written a suspenseful thriller" -- that's for others to decide.
- Don't use the term "Fiction Novel". A novel is fiction. Using this term says you're not ready. (Sorry, but it's the truth.)
- Don't use loaded adjectives to describe your work ("fascinating", "gripping", "exciting", etc.).
- Don't include blurbs from readers, your friends, co-workers, mom.
There are three basic reasons I may decline to represent a particular work:
1. It's not ready. Either there are too many mistakes, or the writing is not mature enough (in my humble opinion) to be published yet.
2. The writing may be just fine, but I'm not exactly excited by the work. It's a taste thing -- some people like broccoli, some don't. It's really tough to make this call because I know how personal (and confusing) it can be.
3. The writing may be fine, and I can see it may be marketable -- but I don't have a clue of where to place it. This usually happens when a manuscript falls outside my list of preferred categories -- like a book on architecture, or a children's book. (See above.)
If you would like to find out why I passed, drop me an email and ask. But be advised: I do tell the truth.
If I decline, please don't resubmit after rewriting / revision . . . unless I specifically invite you to do so.
Some writers get a little nervous sending their work, thinking I'm going to steal it or something. I won't. Boy Scout's honor. That, and it's kind of against the law.
If I pass on your work, I keep your manuscript in a vault, under lock and key, with Maximillian the Dog guarding it.
Sometimes, I make snarky comments on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ about certain memorable queries and submissions. I never reveal the author's identity and often alter plot points of the manuscript to preserve privacy.
If you recognize your work as one being commented upon, and it bothers, annoys and/or angers you, send an email and I'll remove it.
But a kind word of advice: If you can't take some heat from a literary agent, what might happen to you in the real world of publishers, book critics and readers?