Approaching agents online: is there a protocol?

If you have done your homework, you know that there is an accepted way of approaching an agent with your query. This process takes a long time ( in my opinion), and it is only once you have all the information in hand that you can look back and think, ‘Ah, I get it now. Why did this take me so long?’

Not only is there a structure for your query to follow, but there is an etiquette surrounding your approach, your response and your professionalism. No different than a resume for a job really. I mean, if you didn’t tick the right boxes and if you didn’t hold the experience the employee is after, they would pass you over for the job, right? And most times, they wouldn’t call you to tell you that, or to offer advice on where you went wrong. Submitting a query should be no different; it’s not as though we are approaching the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld…follow the rules, don’t be too chatty, get to the point, move to the side and wait.

With pitching competitions becoming so prevalent online, and writers following agents on twitter for information on the literary industry,Β  are we breaking down the barriers? Are literary agents more approachable? Do we have a more direct route to information?

I follow agents on twitter, and I believe I have only responded to one of their tweets. In my head, I changed my tweet a number of times, resulting in a much wittier response that would never be read. My clothing can’t withstand that sort of sweating pressure again. I could just tweet sans clothing, but I would prefer to withhold a response.

But could I approach them directly regarding query information? Regardless, this is what I would do after: Oh my God…Did I use the conjunction comma in the correct place? Do they prefer the oxford comma? DID I JUST SAY ‘SHOULD OF’ INSTEAD OF ‘SHOULD HAVE’??

In most cases, information on their querying process is available on websites, publishing sites, query sites. So should we feel comfortable in treating them as we would a fellow writer we follow, an author we follow?


8 thoughts on “Approaching agents online: is there a protocol?

  1. I’ve looked into a lot of querying information and I honestly don’t have a clue when its acceptable to approach an agent. I’m too shy to worry about such things, but I wish there was an easier way. I don’t follow agents on twitter, I didn’t even think of it honestly. Good luck!

    • I started following them knowing I want to query soon ( In case any said – accepting ya uf now! lol ). I would still think that the normal protocal should be followed once they have a query in hand. It would be interesting to know whether people interact with them on twitter, how they respond.

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ I’ll have to have a looksy. I think I have mine sorted, but there is always so much to learn πŸ™‚ Was just wondering if people every messaged them directly, outside of the normal process. I see a few responding to questions, but I wondered if it’s frowned upon. *shrug*

  2. I follow many agents online – agents I want to submit to, agents I’ve already submitted to, agents I will never submit to. I favourite their tweets, retweet their tweets and occasionally ask them questions about the market and other general topics. I would never contact them on Twitter, though, regarding an actual submission. I believe email is still protocol in that respect. I like to think though, that through my general interaction with them over time, they might come to recognise my name and my long term commitment to my craft. Plus all of the agents I follow seem really friendly and approachable πŸ™‚

    • Oh, hi there πŸ™‚ Fancy seeing you here πŸ˜› I have found some useful information by following them, and you can get a feel for their personality, which is always helpful when you are working out who to query to. You are much braver than I, and more driven; I think I’m still too reserved in this respect. And so not reserved in others…lol. I admire that about you. Are you sick of me telling you that you are good for me?

  3. I’ve read a lot of authors, agents, and editors bemoan the lack of professional boundaries. I think you have to be very careful and selective if you choose to approach an agent through a social media outlet. Some might be receptive, but I personally wouldn’t chance it.
    I don’t follow agents. I don’t think any amount of prior interaction is going to make a difference. They either have a need and interest for a book or they don’t.
    However, I can see the advantages of following them to learn about the industry or about what kind of works they represent.

  4. Can I just say that I love your use of the word ‘bemoan.’ Very cool πŸ™‚ Yes, I think they expect the boundaries to remain in tact, but I have seen people ask when submissions reopen, and their response times. Following them does provide informative insight into pet peeves, query do’s and don’ts and their general preferences, so that’s always handy, and I believe I will just continue to do this πŸ™‚

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