How to WOW an Agent!

How to WOW an Agent!

Kimberly Shumate – Living Word Literary Agency


Know your audience – who are you writing for?

Research the agency and the genres it represents.

Write cover letter in 1st person and the proposal in 3rd person.

Read agency submission guidelines to send exactly what they want: A query letter, short synopsis, and one sample chapter is safe.

  • Sending inappropriate material is never appreciated.
  • Organize your material – know what you’re selling: (35,000 words isn’t a novel; it’s a novella).
  • Don’t send partial book ideas: “I’ve started writing this novel about…” or “I have a great idea for a bible study…”

Agents/Editors need …

  • Confidence that you are able to sustain the quality of writing throughout the entire manuscript.
  • Certainty that you can meet editorial deadlines.

Note: An excellent book marketing resource is Sell Your Book Like Wildfire by Rob Eager (2012). Social Media is so important—Facebook, Twitter, or even a QR code that takes the reader to a dynamic destination such as an active blog, a video, an audio or book trailer… not to the author’s static website.


Put something—preferably the book title—in the email subject line. Don’t leave it empty.

Query letters should begin with courtesies.

Cutting & pasting your synopsis to the email w/out introducing yourself is too impersonal.

Spell the agent’s name correctly, and be careful when sending multiple submissions – change agent’s name/contact info.

Don’t assume that the agent is male (or female) – “Dear Sir/Madame” is fine.

Never ask for a critique from an agent if rejected – that’s what your critique group is for.

Be professional but also be a person.

It’s easy to lose your warmth and accessibility trying to impress.

Use your first name in correspondence, not your initials.

    • Allow the agent the courtesy of knowing if you’re male or female.
    • Don’t bury your contact information within the email or proposal.

Send only one follow-up email regarding each submission

    • With an agent, give it a month.
    • With a editor/publisher, wait 3 months before following up.

Do not request a confirmation of material deletion.

    • This screams “Rookie!” It’s up to you to copyright/protect your material.
    • You won’t win over anyone by questioning their integrity.


Header for title / author name (10 point font and 0.3 top margin) = “Insert” tab in Tool Bar

View or Insert / Header / Edit Header / Position – 0.3

Page Number / Bottom Left / Format Page # start at 0

Under “Edit Header” choose “Different First Page.” That will erase the title, author name, and page number from the cover letter and begin it on the second page (proposal) starting with page #1

The above instructions will allow your cover letter to be free of header and page number while beginnig your proposal with header (which should include book title and author name) and the page number to start at 1.

Watch your margins throughout the proposal.

  • Cut & Paste can affect the continuity of the submission.
  • Margins should remain at 1 x 1 inches throughout the document.

Use 12 point Times New Roman font.

  • Any bigger or smaller can be a nuisance.
  • Send Word documents only – agent may want to manipulate the text.
    • No PDF / Adobe files.
    • Avoid heavy formatting that includes photos, clips art, etc.


Submit polished, edited work.

    • Disengage the “edit” feature before submitting.
    • Use bold, italicized, and justified text sparingly.

Originality is key.

    • With nothing new under the sun, agents rely on your creativity and unique voice to make the material fresh and relevant.

“Show, don’t tell” rule is in force.

    • Reveal information through action and not narration.

Manuscript content should stand up to established authors.

Clichés are a direct reflection of your lack of originality and experience.

Cliché me, cliché me not….

Debbie bit down on her lower lip as she swallowed the lump in her throat. Her brows furrowed and a chill ran down her spine as she read her boyfriend’s breakup text again. Letting out a heavy sigh, she felt cheated. It’s not over till the fat lady sings, she thought optimistically. But who was she kidding? “No, I’ll do the right thing.” She would forgive and forget. After all, it was water under the bridge, and time to turn over a new leaf. She clucked her tongue and chirped aloud, “No use crying over spilled milk.”


Always submit electronically.

Use discretion in everything.

    • Think twice before using social media to voice concerns or doubts about an agent/editor.
    • Facebook can be a blessing and a curse – watch what you post.
    • Don’t get too personal with your pitch – stay focused and economical with your words.

Agents receive submissions from all over the world – you are writing in your first language. No excuses.



One Response to “How to WOW an Agent!”

  1. This information was priceless for me. When I read it the first time it was not taken in, which shows my lack of knowledge in this process. The second time I read it, I received it and understood it’s meaning and purpose was to help me in my lack of knowledge and to follow it would be my gain as well as the agencies. Kimberly is right on in telling us we have no excuses after these amazing instructions if we have been given the true gift of writing in our first language, it will reveal itself.

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