Once again, I’ve started the arduous query process, this time for A Merry War. Last time, even with a cold, unsolicited query and no publishing creds to speak of, I still had 5-6 agents willing to read the manuscript. (OUAN wasn’t ready for big publishers, that was the biggest problem. A Merry War is not only better in quality, I think, it’s also got a heck of a lot more marketing potential–who doesn’t love a good Shakespeare retelling?)
Sometimes as a new writer it’s tempting to think in terms of “us versus them,” with the agents standing as the ominous Gandalf gatekeepers telling us, “You shall not pass!”
But the only reason you become an agent (or an editor) of your own free will is because you love books and you love the book business. They want to find a good story and if yours is a good story, even if you are the most anonymous, unknown writer to stick your little goldfish head out of the enormous black pool of wannabes, then you have a chance.
Keeping that in mind, here is a list from an awesome agent (CK Webber, who I queried, and would love if she read my manuscript) about things you should not be doing. If any of these appear in your query letter, start over.