Swipe Left, Swipe Right

Cynthia Ruchti

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Swipe left or swipe right? People who’ve used Tinder (the app, not scraps of wood and dried leaves) are familiar with those questions.

swipe left


MedicalXpress.com notes, “Anyone who has used the dating app Tinder knows that swiping right on a photo of someone means you would consider meeting them in real life to see if there is some real chemistry.” Swipe left means “I pass.” Swipe right means, “Hmm. Interesting.”

Active agents swipe right or left many times a week. Or a day. Editors do the same.

Swiping right shows interest. Interest may or may not lead to representation or a contract. But swiping left takes that possibility off the table.

A query letter–almost always by email–is the equivalent of a dating profile showing on a cell phone screen. What might make an agent swipe left? What would make her disinterested in pursuing further to see if the project and the author might be a match for her client list?

Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors

Really? An agent would be that picky? Yes. Because authors who dash off a query email without spendingswipe left correcting the time (and consideration) it takes to correct typos, or who aren’t attentive to details in that first impression introduction give hints about his or her manuscript’s “personal hygiene.” If a stack of other queries wait in the wings, hygiene issues may be enough for the agent to swipe left.


Self-importance and over-confidence that the proposal in question is “like nothing you’ve ever read before” or “likely to become a best cellar” (yes, it’s happened) makes even the most merciful agent or editor quickly swipe left. Buh-bye.

Watch for future blogs related to the difference between a strong, confident author profile and a strong-smelling profile.

Same old, same old

swipe left writingSame, same, same, same, oh–wait! This is different! Unique approach. Fresh take on the subject. The agent or editor lingers longer than normal, considering. I’m not impressed enough yet to swipe right, but I won’t swipe left. A possibility.

If an author is writing a memoir, what will make it rise above the other twelve that arrived in the agent’s inbox that day? If the author’s specialty is Bible studies, what makes this one distinct from others already on bookstore shelves? What if a novel isn’t?

Wise authors understand this truth. One of their most important pieces of research is finding out what else has been written on their subject. By whom? When? How will a new treatment of the topic or storyline add to the literary conversation rather than merely add to the volume?

Will the above factors always result in a “swipe left”? Will a typo mean an automatic no? No. If other elements of the query or proposal are solid, intriguing, and compelling enough, the agent or editor may swipe right. And the writer will hear those beautiful words, “This is worth investigating further.”

Authors vie for attention in a vast, ever-growing sea of writers with manuscripts in hand. Writers who remove reasons to swipe left create reasons to swipe right.

If you were the agent or editor opening the email to see if it was worth digging deeper, what might make you swipe left?