Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

What Do We Want?

I’m back in the trenches, friends, once more fighting for attention, once more hoping my query stands out enough for agents to want to read pages, once more hoping and believing that my manuscript is good enough to bring me to the next step on the road to publication.

As part of the process, I’ve gone over my manuscript umpteen times, I’ve drafted and redrafted and redrafted again my query, and I’ve even done something of a synopsis (though I need work on that, and querying if any one component is Good To Go right there and then is an admitted risk). In reviewing queries–not just mine, but ones on Absolute Write and in various other places–I find one phrase keeps popping up. It usually come right at the beginning of the query, and it has long made me tap my chin and wonder, even as I do it myself:

“I am seeking representation for my novel….”

The phrase has long made me stop and think. I’ve even drafted a couple of blog posts on the subject, but never posted them for one reason or another (at least I couldn’t find them; I did find one other unfinished post in my blog file. It accounts for the sense of deja vu I’ve been experiencing while writing this). What it makes me wonder is this: Are we seeking representation for one novel, or are we seeking representation for a career full of novels?

I certainly don’t plan on being a ‘one and done’ kind of writer, but I don’t know what life will bring me. And, yes, it would look all kinds of pretentious and pompous to start off with a query with a line like, “I am seeking representation for what will be a long and distinguished literary career”, or “I am seeking someone who will champion my work tirelessly over the next 25 years.” Those kinds of openings would get you hoisted up on the anonymous agent blogs under the heading, ‘What Not To Do In A Query’–who wants to see themselves there? That’s not the sort of ‘in print’ exposure I want.

But agents are smart people. “I’m seeking representation for my novel….” is a sort of standard, one that is understood to have “…and any others that I produce after this one” added on to the end. I just get these things stuck in my head every once in a while and have to let them out.

That’s about it for me here. How are you all doing? Do you have a phrase (writing-related or not) that always makes you stop and think? Please share, and have a great weekend!

20 Responses

  1. for thought, I'll give you that. I'm soon to be querying too (just finishing off a few last minute polishes) and I never thought about that line being a 'phrase'.

  2. You know…you could just toss that line altogether, since it's implied that's what you want by writing to the agent in the first place. 😛

    However, I do know what you mean. I assume most agents are thinking career when they take on a client. I'm sure they're banking on the idea that you'll have a few more novels in you. You don't want to mention other projects up front, but I think it's likely it would come up in conversation once an offer of representation is on the table.

  3. I can honestly say I've never used that phrase. It's kind of implied when I query them, so I save my words for more important stuff – like my story. Of course, I don't have an agent (yet), so maybe you should just ignore me! Haha!

  4. "I am seeking representation for my novel…" Is the perfect intro. Your future agent will sign you on that one novel to begin with. Obviously you hope the partnership develops and grows, but the one novel you are querying is where it starts.

    Good luck, Jeff. The best bit about a trench is that it is absolutely possible to come out of it with a result!

  5. "I am seeking representation…" "This novel will knock your socks off…" "Hello greatest agent in the world…" No matter what phrase you use it only matters that you are moving forward. Congrats and best of luck.

  6. That's a fair point, L.G., and I would be happy to scrap all the niceties and just dive into the query, but that always feels wrong, too. And I don't mention anything but the current query. Save it for the (hoped for) phone call….

  7. I tell you, every once in a while I think about adding some sort of over-the-top sentence to my query in the hopes of scoring audacious points–then I hit the delete key! Thank you for your support, Sheena-kay.

  8. Yeah, what Donna Hosie said. She's been around the blog with agents, so she knows what she's talking about. Plus, she's a smart cookie.

    Good luck, Jeff!

  9. I'm nowhere near ready to start thinking about querying yet, but I'm glad you've taken the plunge again. Hopefully you'll make it to the next stepping stone. When it's time to start querying, I'll be doing plenty of research and advice-asking. Good luck to you, Jeff!

  10. I honestly had never thought about that. It makes me wonder also where the line is with how much you say, and what you assume they already know. I guess it's different from agent to agent, so there's always that element of luck that we cant control. Good luck with the letter, Jeff.

  11. Hah ha, good one: "Ezekiel, 25:17: 'The path of the writer is beset on all sides by the inequities of the agents, and the tyranny of editors.'"

    Hmm, on second thought, maybe not.

  12. Well, as others have pointed out, it does sort of go without saying that we're looking for representation, so I suppose it's technically not needed. For this query round, I'm leaving it in the highly variable, case-by-case basis. It's been in some, not in others. Thanks, Michael.

  13. You're right, it's best to keep the standard portions of the query as brief as possible. The agent will only skim these and go right for the pitch/synopsis. That section is the most important, so make sure to get as much feedback as possible and make it shine! Wishing you good luck in the query process! 🙂

  14. Thanks very much, Lexa. I did get a lot of feedback on the query, from people who have read and not read the MS. We'll see how it goes from here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Updates

For announcements, alerts and special offers, subscribe to our emails.  Please note, you will have to confirm your subscription through an email to the address you provide.

Follow Jeff O'Handley

Jeff O'Handley ©2024 - All Rights Reserved.