What Do You Look Like From The Other Side Of The Table?

~ By Scott Eagan

As writers, we’re so used to sitting at our computers, pounding out query letters. It’s part of our job.  

But sometimes, it feels like we’re sending them into thin air. Have you ever wondered about the person on “the other side of the table?” 

Well, you’re in luck! We have agent Scott Eagan of the Greyhaus Literary Agency visiting the blog today to shed the light on the mystery. Read carefully! He’s got some great advice for us. 

I get it. Submissions are tough. Query letters are tough. Synopsis writing is tough. And yes, the thought of sitting down with an editor or agent who can make or break your career is completely terrifying. Unfortunately, this is a “necessary evil” in the man and women at tableworld of publishing, and frankly, there is no difference here than when you are applying for a job in the real world. Do you honestly go through all of these same feeling when you send out a job application? When you write your resume? Probably not! Still, writers struggle with this a lot so I want to approach this from a slightly different angle. Turn the table. Tell me what the editors and agents are seeing from their perspective.

In all honesty, I do believe many writers would have more success if they quit focusing in on the “things they should be writing” in the submission material or the pitches, and focus more on seeing things in a bigger picture. Think of what image he or she is sending to that agent or editor.

Let me list a few things we normally see in submission material and tell me what you think of these authors?

  • “To whom it may concern”
  • “Dear Mr./Mrs. Editor/Agent”
  • “This is really my first pitch so go easy on me.”
  • “It has taken me over 15 years to write this story because I was afraid to sit down at the computer.”
  • “I am really hoping you might want to maybe read this project.”

So what do you hear? The odds are we are seeing a lack of professionalism of at least figuring out who the person is sending the project to. The odds are you are seeing a lack of confidence. If this is the case, why would an editor or agent even want to work with this person? Although writing is an independent activity normally done between you and your computer, publishing is very professional. You have to be out there in front of other people. Consider the professional writers you admire. You like them for your confidence. These speakers in those 5 examples just didn’t show that.

I will tell you, I reject a lot of writers simply because the impression the authors gave me is someone who will require months, if not years, of teaching them how to write or how to be a writer. I reject these people because they demonstrated an inability to present an image of being a professional writer. What I saw were people who write as a hobby.

One of the easiest things to ask yourself is, “Would you hire you?” Don’t look at your story; look at the image you are conveying. Do you act the part of a professional writer? Do you dress the part if you are getting ready to pitch? Do you demonstrate you know what you are doing? Think of the view from the other side of the table.

Thank you so much, Scott! 

4 thoughts on “What Do You Look Like From The Other Side Of The Table?”

  1. Pingback: Pitch Contest With Agent Scott Eagan | Contemporary Romance

  2. Kaitlyn,
    Even though there may be multiple people in an agency who can help you, it is crucial that you demonstrate to those in the office that you have done your homework. Sure, many may represent your writing, but in reality, your personality might be a better fit with one agent over another.

    If, the agent does believe it would be a better fit with someone else, they will forward it on.


  3. Great article Scott! Thanks for visiting us today. I loved your examples. The unprofessional/lack of confidence ones absolutely make sense.

    Can you expand on needing query letters to be addressed to a specific person rather than “To Whom It May Concern”? In an agency or publishing house that boasts multiple people who could represent you, does addressing one person limit you?

    Thanks again!

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