First, I highly recommend people read my notes on “Query Fails,” on http://gregaunapu.com/blog-page/.
You may find that the points I’ve made help you going forward with many other agents, not just me. After reading thousands of queries, I have found that some of the best written ones are for work that I consider unpublishable, and some of the worst queries have ended up being for projects that had excellent prospects. This is why I ask for sample pages in the submission guidelines below. To me, this is the most important part of the query, but often the one piece that writers fail to include. Also, I only accept electronic queries. Please do not send me anything through snail mail. Submissions to editors are all done through email these days. I haven’t sent anyone a physical manuscript in years.
I do a lot of non-fiction, and would like to see more work from current journalists who have investigated a particular topic, especially true crime, though I represent a variety of categories, and our agency has been strong in everything from tech books to cookbooks and much more. Non-fiction is completely different than fiction. I can sell a project based on a strong proposal, which should include a sample chapter or two and a detailed outline.
Most authors are going to need a strong platform in the category in which they are submitting!! So, if you are a captain of industry, I can probably sell your leadership book, but probably not your book on how to re-invent education. If you are a known chef, I can probably sell your cookbook, but not your book on dancing — I think you get my drift. If you are previously unknown, but are the first researcher to discover an Amazon frog that creates an enzyme that kills cancer…. well, send it along by all means! That’s something unique. What the heck is an Author Platform and How do I Build it? Publishers feel that an author’s “platform” is more important than ever before. Are you an expert in your field, regularly appear as such, and are often quoted in articles or on television? In other words, do you already have a machine in place to sell books? I don’t need to hear that you will hire a publicist (not usually a great idea) or other things that you “will do,” but want to know what you’re already doing. Preferably you are employed in an area about which your book is a logical and organic outgrowth. I also need to know why you want to write this book, why you are one of the best people, if not the best person to write the book and why you are so interested in this subject.
There are many sites with advice on how to build a platform on the web, as well as books on Amazon. Here is a good place to start: http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/build-a-platform-start-blogging/building-a-writers-platform
Very important — As with fiction below (especially important for memoirs!): Please submit a short synopsis and the first chapter or two pasted into the body of your email query so that I can get a feel for your style. The synopsis shouldn’t be too mysterious, (in other words, not a back-of-the-book style blurb) and should reveal the main points of the book. Don’t just include a link to your website and expect agents to go clicking around the internet in search of your material as we all get tons of material every day and everyone has devised their own individual workflow in order to evaluate queries.
DEAR AUTHORS — I AM PRESENTLY TAKING ON just a FEW NEW FICTION PROJECTS — mostly MYSTERIES, SUSPENSE and THRILLERS, but will consider all genres in which you have a strong story and memorable characters. *
Please note, I see a lot of vampire, werewolf and zombie material, so unfortunately, I am unlikely to take any of it on. Also, about 90% of thrillers coming in are terrorist related, so a story along those lines will have to hit on all cylinders with a fresh plot, memorable characters, scintillating dialog, not too long, not too short.
Very important! — Please submit a short synopsis and the first couple of chapters pasted into the body of your email query in the Contact Form below so that I can get a feel for your style. I get dozens of queries every day and the quality of your writing will make your query stand out. The synopsis shouldn’t be too mysterious, (in other words, not a back-of-the-book style blurb) and should reveal the main plot points of the book. Please note, the most common “epic fail” seen in fiction manuscripts — even those with very good prose — is some kind of plot hole. I can’t count how many times I’ve spent eight hours carefully reading someone’s novel, only to ask “well, why didn’t they just dothat (usually something pretty simple)?” The author has usually been cognizant of the problem, and responds, “I was afraid of that….” Agents, editors and your ultimate reader will spot these holes.
HOW TO SUBMIT
Sorry — the Spammers have won! I must now ask authors to make their initial query through a “Contact Form.” If you utterly hate the below form, you can submit through www.salkindagency.com.
Otherwise, you can easily cut and paste your material from Word into the box. It should keep all normal text formatting, such as paragraphs, though not special fonts or italics. If you use italics, DON’T PANIC! Perfect formatting is not a prerequisite of good writing! If you have a non-fiction “How To” book, for instance, that must be formatted for sidebars and so on, just let me know.
* Please Note: The amount of submissions has become astronomical, especially after the Oct Writer’s Digest profile was published. While I have always tried to contact authors, even if I am passing, it has become a bit difficult. So if you do not hear from me within 3 weeks, it means that I am unable to take on your project — and please understand that it is absolutely not personal!! I can only take on a small percentage of even the most promising submissions. It might be that your work is too similar to something I already have, or it may be too different from what I usually take on, or that a work is too long or too short… etc.
* Checklist — Did you include:
Writing Sample — please include at least the first chapter. I’m sorry, but due to the amount of submissions, I will no longer be able to answer queries that do not include a writing sample.