Chip MacGregor

June 26, 2012

What is the agent looking for?


Mary wrote to ask, “What are you looking for in a query?”

Every time I open a query letter, I’m hoping to see something I fall in love with. I want to see a great idea, supported by great writing, from an author with a great platform. I want to read an idea that makes me go, “Fabulous! Why didn’t I think of that?!” An author platform that shrieks, “I can help support this book!” Writing that hooks me from the first line. It’s rare, but it happens.

The one thing that makes sit up and take notice is great voice. If an author sounds unique and has personality on the page, I tend to pay close attention. I’m a sucker for great voice, and it’s the one thing we rarely see. Much of what we see isn’t bad, so much as it’s the same as everything else. It sounds the same, it reads the same, and it could have been written by anybody. Great voice in writing always grabs me.

On the flip side, the thing that makes me immediately plop the query into my “reject” pile is seeing the same old thing — something that’s trying to ride the coattails of a project that’s already been done in a big way. (Examples include, “I was thinking we could turn the Book of Revelation into a novel” and “What about a book on making your life more purpose driven?” I’ve seen them both. Recently.)


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