Every day, literary agents are bombarded with query letters from hopeful writers, many claiming to have the next New York Time’s bestseller. Even small agencies are inundated with requests for representation, often written by inexperienced individuals who have put little to no thought into what they are sending.

There are not enough hours in an agent’s day, so nothing can be more annoying and a bigger waste of time than an inbox filled with poorly prepared email queries.

A query letter must be professional, mature, polished, and well written. It should be carefully proofread and checked for typos and incorrect grammar and spelling. Sloppy, hit-or-miss work is not impressive, and submitting an electronic query with mistakes will land it in a literary agent’s recycling bin faster than the writer can say “delete.”

It is important to use a personalized greeting, and get the agent’s name correct. “Dear Agent” or “To Whom It May Concern” probably will get the e-mail deleted without a second glance. Also, a potential author should send each e-query individually, and not to a list of agents. Multiple submissions are acceptable and expected, but this kind of communication is a turn-off and will not be read.

A writer should never forward an electronic query with a URL link, asking the agent to look at his work on the website. Agents do not have the time or desire to peruse websites, and it is the author’s responsibility to include the appropriate material in his query presentation.

It should go without saying that, when seeking literary representation, a writer must respect a literary agent’s time, and always behave professionally. Remember, agents receive a never-ending stream of email queries, and submitting a well-thought-out, well-crafted letter is the best chance a prospective author has at grabbing an agent’s attention.