Swipe Left, Swipe Right

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?

34 Responses

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  1. The flash of the kingfisher, green across pond
    on its precise unerring path to the cool heart
    of a story well told and carrying a courtly grace
    bespeaks professional pride; you’ve done your part,
    writer, and were I an agent, I’d attend to mine.

  2. The right swipe, dear Lord, let it be.
    And thank you for being a right-swipe kind of God!

  3. I am so unfamiliar with the swipe left/right concept I had to reread to remember which was which. 😂 12 years of marriage has put me out of touch with the latest dating methods. LoL

    The reasons to “swipe left” on a manuscript besides those you have mentioned are a lack of research for the market, target audience, and comparable books. Even great books can get lost in the plethora of books without an awareness of the market and a plan to reach it.

  4. Cynthia, what a creative take on this topic. I’ve been out of the dating world so long I’m unfamiliar with the world of online dating. But I know enough to know I want a swipe right when I submit a manuscript for consideration!
    *Now to make sure my story is compelling and fresh in the telling and that I can present it in a way that encourages a swipe right.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      There’s a commercial playing on TV these days that shows an elderly woman leaning over the shoulder of her elderly friend, telling her, “No. No. No. Yeeessss,” as the friend swipes left, left, left, right on her cell phone. It’s interesting and yet tragic that decisions to give someone an opportunity to prove their personality is handled as flippantly as left, left, left, right in the current dating climate. When considering a prospective client, it’s so much more involved than that. But the analogy does have some merit regarding first impressions, instinct, gut feeling, and our doing our best to eliminate what agents and editors universally (or almost) find unappealing.

  5. Carol Ashby says:

    No self-aggrandizement? That’s never a problem for me. I’m very proud of my humidity. (Oops. Typo. That should bee humility.)

  6. I love this! Such a clever way to put the reviewal process! We’re I am agent or editor, the things you’ve already listed would cause me to “swipe left.” As would a bullying type attitude or know-it-all-ness.

    • Speaking of typos. *headdesk* That’s what I get for commenting on the fly and not checking that autocorrect had not ambushed my post. Lol

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Bullying takes so many forms, doesn’t it? One of my young grandsons was the subject of a parent-teacher conference recently. The teacher’s comment was, “He…he certainly has a wealth of knowledge.” 🙂 The parents picked up on the subtle reminder that knowledge is at its best when accompanied by humility, compassion, application, and sensitivity.

  7. What? No crystal ball? I like how you take us on a journey into the agent’s head. From either side, author or agent, the “swipes” represent hours of labor intensive writing.that is right (and ready) for the times, or not. Cecil Murphey wrote about that scenario this week on his blog. Timing matters on when to market specific types of books. Hit at the start of a trend. Oh my! Much to be considered. Glad there are some swipes to the right.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      One thing I should have mentioned, too, is that those who consistently read agent blogs are already engaged in some of the activities that make a right swipe more likely! They’re growing in their understanding of the industry and how the publishing process works.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I had no idea what the Tinder app was, and am grateful for my sweetheart and hubby of twenty-five years. Being from the northern woods of Wisconsin, and Minnesota , I can only picture someone chopping logs, and the rest of us picking up small sticks and dried leaves for a blazing fire. Great marketing idea! Course I suppose that depends if things end in ashes or a co finally stoked fire.

    What would make me swipe left as an agent or editor? Anything that seems fake, phony or full of fluff: lack of substance and real life.

    With that here is an update for those who have been praying for my sister.


    I’m on my way to the home of my sister and brother-in-law, very grateful that my sister has turned the corner in the ICU. It’s still a lengthy road to complete her convalescence from this unexpected occurrence. But, deciding to celebrate this improvement in her condition, instead of turning west to an awaiting bed, I turned east and headed to the Perkins sitting on the shores of Lake Superior, the Wisconsin side.

    The waitress settled me into a booth with a window view, my request. After all I have been in a windowless small room for three days and three nights, a room with a history of sickness and death. But not this time. This time, death will not lay hold to the precious soul that lays silent and still in the bed, her body covered with white sheets. This time, although, the journey may be slow, she will rise.

    Keep praying for my beloved sister and friend, Cathy.

    With love and deep gratitude,

    • Carol Ashby says:

      Giving thanks!

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Fake, phony, full of fluff, lacking substance and real life. Great observations, Betsy. If I have to contact the author to ask, “What’s the point you’re trying to make? What’s the takeaway value for the reader?”, there’s still work to be done before that query or proposal is truly ready.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Rejoicing with you on this uplifting update, Elizabeth. I hope a wee bit of rest is in your near future.

      • Thank-you Janet. I just woke up from a four hour sleep and will be heading back to the hospital shortly. I appreciate your prayers so much. The fires, the storms, those in death’s doorway like dear Andrew and my sister, and our daily needs are part of why we are told to be instant in prayer, and to constantly be in prayer for all saints, everywhere and to pray for those in separate need of Him, the ultimate source of love and life and all we need.

        Thanks again, AND now to find coffee.

    • Yay!

    • Elizabeth, we rejoice with you! You and Cathy and Mark remain in my prayers.

      • Thank you so much Andrew. Those small little rooms, windowless, and no clue as to what the outside of the world looks like can be incredibly dark, unless you carry the Light of the World inside. I bring that Light into that room, and though I may look like just a woman clad in jeans, boots and a sweater, invisible to natural eyes my armour is battle ready, snuggly fitted and secured on, fighting a battle beyond mortal eyes. Thank you and all in prayer for joining in the heavenly ranks.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Betsy, what a sweet picture of the gift it was to have a window view, and how it soothed. She will…indeed…rise.

      • Yes, it indeed was a gift, and she will rise. I had a little gold toned ring with a cross and had lost it some time ago and I didn’t know where. When I reached the house and was moving things I noticed a glimmer if gold on the bed, on top of the opened sheets. I truly have no idea how it found it’s way there accept it was hidden in my luggage and fell out, or was an get my travel items from my last visit months ago. I placed that ring over my left pinky next to my finger with my wedding ring and popped it over my knuckle and found it won’t slide off easily like it had been. Sometimes, even swollen joints from arthritis can be a useful and disguised blessing. There is no doubt He is with me, and I am not alone, even in the midst of a dark night.

        Thanks so much, and yes, she will indeed rise, and at that with His healing in His wings.

  9. Cynthia, your fresh approach to this topic made me swipe right and keep right on reading.
    A grammar or spelling error wouldn’t make me swipe left as much as boredom would. If I’m not hooked by a desire to know more, or hooked by an intriguing or poignant voice/story, then I swipe left. A boring story that’s clear of errors is still a yawner. But if you catch my attention, I won’t pay much attention to the errors during my page-flipping-sprint to the end.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      So very true. A boring story that’s clear of errors is still a yawner. And a compelling story makes it easier to turn off our internal editor.

  10. Joanne Reese says:

    I will never envision a slush pile the same way again. I see papers flying all over the place … to the left … to the right! Who is going to clean up the mess? (Perhaps I’m taking the swiping thing too literally.) Thanks for this fun take on things, Cynthia.

    If I were an agent or editor, I would need to feel connected to the message the writer was trying to convey before I swiped right. If the cover letter and first few lines of the manuscript didn’t grab me, I’d be swiping left.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      That is such a great point, Joanne. Agents and editors need to feel connected to the message in order to put their best championing efforts behind it. So a “swipe left” might mean, “This is FABULOUS! It’s just not for me.”

  11. What would make me swipe left? The same things that make you rush your grocery cart down the detergent isle and away from a too bold, too creepy, too enthusiastic, too lurking, too fragrant, guy following you in the grocery store. If you cringe, you swipe left. I once had a man in my line when I worked at the grocery store who tried to evangelize me while I was checking groceries. Now I’m a Christian, I love Jesus, and even work in full time ministry. But the stern and panic-inducing way He pounded out the gospel, just made me want to toss him outside and lock the doors. Too, crazy! So, any query that gave off that kind of uber-intense vibe would get a “no” I’d think.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Interesting how it doesn’t matter the subject, if it’s approached in a stern, panic-inducing way, it doesn’t spell “Approachable.” 🙂