In Which The Author Learns The How-To
Where to begin? Why, it's always best to start at the beginning, and Noah Lukeman dives straight into the slush pile in The First Five Pages.
It might be wise to keep in mind that his advice is aimed at a wide target audience, and some of his suggestions seem obvious or old hat if you have been at the agent-hunting business for a time. His first suggestion is to submit a manuscript that is neat, readable, and error-free. No room for artistic license here, the pages must be properly numbered, the margins as per spec, etc., etc. There are numerous websites that describe proper formatting, and I have seen the question answered frequently on writers' forums. Seems like a no-brainer, but one could presume that a long-established agent has seen his or her share of sloppy pages.
Many times I have heard that your query should be targeted to specific agents, and this is sometimes easier said than done. I have submitted historical fiction to agents who have repped same, only to be rejected as 'not right for the list'. One should also cozy up to the agent, being specific in mentioning a couple of authors already within the agent's stable. "....will appeal to readers of..." is a handy phrase to bandy about. Not that I've had any success with it, but who am I to quibble?
How to send your parcel of literary excellence? Oddly enough, Noah Lukeman recommends shipping FedEx and having someone sign for it. How many times have agent blogs mentioned how much they hate this? Right on page 25, St. Luke(man) is preaching pure heresy. Does that mean that he spends his days signing receipts for the delivery man? Now, he also says that one should send only a query and a SASE, rather than some bulky package. Following the agency guidelines is perhaps the simplest way to proceed. As for sending directly to a publisher, unless the publisher accepts manuscripts, don't waste time and paper and money.
We conclude the first chapter with some basic formatting protocols. The usual inch margins, double spaced, twelve point font - and under no circumstances should there be a copyright notice. Rank amateur, St. Luke(man) points out, and his word is holy writ.
Yet I have followed his advice, and still I have been rejected numerous times. I must wander into the pages further, in search of wisdom.