A Few Tips from Literary Agent Leigh Feldman

This week we’re passing along advice from the publishing industry, and my agent, Leigh Feldman, was nice enough to outline her top pointers for querying writers. I’ve had the honor of working with Leigh for the past two years, and one of the things I love about her is that she tells it like it is!

**Make sure the agent you query represents books in the genre you have written. When sending your query letter tell the agent that you are querying them because they have represented XYZ which you admired and that there are certain things in your novel that you HOPE will be similar.

**Go through your book shelves, look in the acknowledgements of your favorite books (and maybe books most similar to the one you have written), and find the name of the agent in the acknowledgements. Using a comp that shows your breadth of reading is great.  I don’t really want a comparison to a generic best seller like GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

**Three paragraphs is enough. First graph: the reason you approached the agent. Second: brief synopsis (very hard for writers as the best writers are almost incapable of this, but at least show you can write a few good sentences). Use comps that are combos; for example one book and one movie, or two books and the reason for each comp. Third:  interesting, off beat bio that may let the agent know why you chose to write this particular story. Something funny is always good, like “I raked leaves for 50 year while this novel germinated in my head.”

**Misspelled names, bad grammar, bad punctuation, colored paper, fancy font, 8×10 photo of yourself, large font, fonts of different sizes are A TURN OFF.  Using those snazzy gimmicks says you don’t have enough confidence in your work.

**We don’t care about degrees or even if you finished high school; we care that you are a passionate reader and that you spent a long time writing and even, maybe, discarded your first terrible novel, and that you have been in a writers group/peer feedback for years. If you can’t write a submission letter we suspect that you can’t write a novel.

**The MOST offensive is someone who isn’t a reader or a passionate writer who thinks they have “an interesting story to tell.” As I say, every so kindly/snottily, “I don’t represent ideas, I represent writers.”

**Be humble!

During her 25 years as a literary agent based in New York City, Leigh Feldman has established herself as an invaluable partner to the writers she represents, and is highly respected by her peers in the industry. Her agency, Leigh Feldman Literary, is the culmination of experiences and lessons learned from her 20-plus years at Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman Literary Agency and Writer’s House. In that time, Feldman has represented National Book Award winners and bestsellers of literary fiction, historical fiction, memoir, middle grade, and young adult. No matter the writer or the category, Feldman only represents books she believes in, that captivate her, and that she can best serve with her passion and tenacity.

You can find submission guidelines on her website, lfliterary.com. Thank you, Leigh!!


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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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