So you've written a novel. You're convinced it's a masterpiece; quite possibly the best thing ever written. And who knows? You could be right ...
You're not worried about your covering letter, or the presentation of your manuscript. After all, the sheer brilliance of your prose and stunning nature of your story will surely shine through. I mean, you know enough not to have submitted the MS hand-written on the inside of a cereal packet, so what more do they want?
Well, stop right there. If you haven't bothered to do your research as well as proof read your covering letter, why should an agent bother to give you their full attention? On the assumption that the book itself is going to be polished and professional? The letter is the first thing they see and first impressions count, right?
Y'see, you not only have to give an agent compelling reasons to take you on, you also need to make sure you haven't given them any reasons not to ... like being sloppy with your pitch, for example.
Literary agent, Andrew Lownie, has posted a selection of opening lines in letters he has received over the last few months on his website. Thing is, the authors may well be the next (insert name of your favourite author) but we'll probably never know, simply because no agent took them seriously enough to find out. (My personal fave is, 'Bear Andrew'.)
There's no point in coming over all sullen and saying this is petty stuff and your naked talent should be enough to guarantee succeess... and if it doesn't it's cos there's something wrong with the industry ... damn philistines and bean counters ... yada yada yada ...
Look, it's just common sense.
Say you're going on a hot date. You're convinced your sparkling wit and humour cannot fail to bowl over the soon-to-be significant other. You're a fantastic catch, of course you are. Except if you don't bother to blow your nose and make sure your clothes are clean and your breath doesn't stink like mouldy kippers, is it likely they will stick around to find out if the other stuff is in place?
Anyway, I'll leave you with that thought. Less than a week to go to Youngest Son's bar mitzvah and it's all systems go. See you on the other side.