Writing Tips

Seven Steps to Winning an Agent’s Favor

  1. Use Times New Roman: Always use New Times Roman both in your proposal and manuscript because that is the preferred typeface of publishers. As agent I always change proposals to New Times Roman anyway, so save your fancy typefaces for your business card or letterheads. You never impress an editor with a variety of typefaces—all they want is readable copy, either in fiction or non-fiction.
  2. Don’t Over-Capitalize: Never use capital letters in headings, section descriptors, your name, when sending me a proposal. They decrease readability and don’t impress editors. Use capitals ONLY with names of characters in the Synopsis or Chapter Summaries.
  3. Provide Contact Information: Always, ALWAYS put your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address in the upper left corner of any title page, whether it is the proposal or manuscript. I’ve “lost” too many proposals where there was no contact information anywhere.
  4. Get Help Editing: Beyond writing an extraordinarily good manuscript, do yourself the favor of having an experienced copy editor read and correct errors. Even two typos a page can kill any good impression you have made. With other writers delivering nearly perfect copy in their proposal, you cannot afford to come off looking careless.
  5. Spell Foreword Correctly: Remember to spell Foreword correctly—more than 50% of the writers approaching me spell it as Forward, which of course means a forward movement. Just seeing that word spelled wrong sets off negative vibrations in agents and editors.
  6. Know Publisher Submission Requirements: When writing fiction, first determine what publishers could be interested in your novel, then look over their submission requirements. I receive far too many novels that are inbetweeners or over 100,000 words—fitting neither the word count of the romance book clubs or the full length novel requirements. Remember, most editors look first at the upper right corner to see if your word count fits their parameters—and may reject your proposal without looking further if your word count reveals you did not check their website for acceptable word counts. I’ve had editors reject proposals simply because they were at 114,000 words, or 14,000 words over publishers’ acceptable limit.
  7. Keep Your Reader in Mind: Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, always have a reader clearly in mind. Unless you are aware of your reader on every page, you will fail to engage the reader and soon lose her or him.