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  1. Immediate Reject #1: Querying different agents at the same agency at the same time.
    We thought this was QCS: querying common sense. But now, we're finding out that writers are querying multiple agents in the same agency at the same time. All we can say is, huh? Why would writers think this is a wise idea? What ever happened to "Wooing Etiquette 101": if you want to date either Marcia or Jan because you think they're both groovy, then you don’t call the Brady house and leave them both messages. Right? You clearly call Marcia first, (duh)... and if she snubs your call after a week because she's more interested in going steady with Davey Jones, then you suck it up and casually move onto Jan. Got it?

    Agents in the same agencies chat. They’re colleagues, and sometimes even friends (gasp!), especially the ones who have common interests and represent similar genres. Yes, agents are competitive, but they also share information, which means if you query both Agent Ashley and Agent Mary Kate at the Olsen Literary agency at the same time, they will find out and you will be DENIED… So trust us on this, and don’t mess with different agents in the same agency at the same time. Twins, sisters, or otherwise.

    Query one agent first, and wait for the partial request or rejection. If you DO get a request for a partial or full, you must wait through the many months of silence until Marcia officially dumps you. You must fight the assumption that silence = rejection, and thus, you're entitled to query Jan, too. If you do query Jan while Marcia is still considering your work, they will find out and you will receive an immediate rejection from both pissy Brady sisters. And guess what? You deserve it. Only when Marcia officially dumps your work are you entitled to query Jan. And even then, you're really better off querying other agents who aren't related.

  2. Immediate Reject #2: Paying companies to write and submit your query letters on your behalf.
    It's all over the blogosphere: agents are complaining about being bombarded by queries that seem identical in their wording and tone. Hello? The point of a query letter is to convey your own literary voice. And no one—no matter how much you pay them—can do that for you. And you certainly shouldn't pay companies like Bookblaster or buy instant query software to write and send your queries either. Agents are a quick bunch and they're catching-on to these SPAM-query services. In fact, we give it a month before queries sent from these companies are granted ADS: automatic-delete-status. And what's worse is that you actually paid someone for the honor of being an immediate reject.

  3. Immediate Reject #3: Saying you’re a published author when you've really only been published by vanity presses.
    If you've been published by a vanity press like PublishersAmerica or Authorhouse, or any other "printing" venue with a poor industry reputation, then it's really better not to mention that fact when querying agents with your new novel or book proposal. It's a myth that you need to be published to get an agent, so touting that you've got publishing credentials that include printing your book through PA or AH is really not helpful. And, in fact, it's probably hurtful.

    Agents like potential clients who have done their homework and who are savvy about the industry and marketplace, and if you still are under the impression that PA and AH are somehow on the same level as Random House and Simon & Schuster, then agents won’t want to waste their time breaking the bad news to you.

  4. Immediate Reject #4: Thinking everyone is going to steal your brilliant idea.
    You will likely be rejected if you use this symbol: © anywhere on your query or manuscript. Why? Because paranoid newbie amateurs are notorious for fearing that everyone wants to steal their brilliant ideas, and as a result, they feel compelled to plaster their queries and manuscripts with this symbol: © And agents don't want to deal with paranoid amateurs. They just don't.

    Are we saying don't copyright your manuscript? No. Go get the © if it will make you feel better. After that, keep it to yourself until you're Dan Brown and someone sues you for stealing their idea.

    Agents aren't intellectual property thieves. They have much better things to do than steal your ideas. In fact, it’s way easier for agents to sign you up as a client and make money off your brilliance than it is to for them to steal your ideas and pass them onto their existing clients. Besides, experienced agents and writers know it's not the idea that's valuable, it's the killer execution. So the only thing this symbol: © does is red flag your manuscript as a paranoid amateur. Bottomline: if you've got the ©, great. But don't flaunt it unless you want to receive an immediate reject.

  5. Immediate Reject #5: Listing your blog or author website on your query.
    Writers' blogs are so ubiquitous nowadays that it's kinda eerie. Like the internet is turning into a literary-voyeuristic-twightlightzone-reality-internet-freak-fest. And there seems to be this strange idea percolating out there in cyberland that navel-gazing blogs and self-stitched author websites are synonymous with having a "web presence".

    First of all, web presence is sorely overrated. What "web presence" means to you—a few hundred daily visitors—means spit to Random House, and agents know this. Second of all, it’s a fact that it takes the average web user less than 5 seconds to judge the merit of a website. It's also a fact that web users are very unforgiving, including writers. We often judge an agent's legitimacy by the professional "look" (or lack thereof) conveyed through her website. So what's stopping agents from judging us in the same way? Why would agents be any less forgiving when they visit our authors' blogs or websites to judge the writer behind the writing?

    Guess what? They’re not. So if you want agents to judge the merits of your writing, not the merits of you as a writer as conveyed by your website or blog, then don't give them extra reasons for an immediate reject.

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