Friday, January 27, 2012

Querying Made Easy 101

So, I was tweeting back and forth with a fellow writer/CP, offering her things to make sure she did while querying. For sure the process is tedious and awful, but I'd like to share some tips that can make it easier/faster.

The Query Letter: Make sure you have a few set of eyes critique your letter. You'll most likely go through 3 maybe 10 versions before you nail it. After that, send out maybe 10 queries a week to gauge how it is accepted. You may need to re-evalaute the letter at the beginning. Unfortunately, it isn't an exact science. 

Finding THE Agent: Don't randomly query to Agent X or Agent Y. Make sure they represent what you write. It's wasted time and effort to send off your letter to an agent who doesn't even work with your genre. Here are some sites I used to research:
  • Agency Websites (Google a list)
  • Agent Blogs/Website (Google a list)
  • Look into agents who represent your favorite authors, especially if what they write falls under the category of what you write
Agency Websites: If there is a certain agent you'd like to query, check out their agency's website. Perhaps, one of their co-agents will be a better fit for your book. These websites can give you an idea of what the agent may be like and what they're looking for.

Agent Preferred Query Method: Make sure you send agents your query letter EXACTLY as they accept it. If you don't, you might have your query deleted or thrown away. I thoroughly researched them out through their blogs, query websites, agency websites, etc. On agency websites they typically list their submission requirements. Follow them to the "T." If they ask you to email the query letter, synopsis, etc. in the body of the email, DO IT! If they ask for the first 10 pages of your MS, DO IT! If they ask you to title the subject of your email with the word "Query," DO IT. If they ask for you to mail in your query, DO IT!  Enough said about that.

Submission Requirments Made Easy: Querying can take a while with research and all that jazz. But with some pre-query work, you can make it faster. Ok, agents may ask for a synopsis, sample pages, etc. To make it easier to put all that in the email, do the following:
  • Save your query where you can easily paste it into the body of the email or attach to the email (if they ask for attachments ONLY)
  • Save your MS as 5, 10 , 20 , 25 , and 50 page documents. Yes, five different files. Take it from me, you'll be happy you did. Open the file with the number of pages required for the query email. Copy and paste will become your BFF.
  • Also, save your MS as a .doc and .docx. Some agents require it in a certain format. Doing this will save you time. It is important to send agents your MS, synopsis or sample pages in the formate they deal with.
Important FYI: DO NOT query two agents from the same agency at the same time! Sometimes agents will hand off a query to one of their co-agents if it would suit them better. Assume that your query has been sent to the agency as a whole.

Excel Spreadsheet: I developed a spreadsheet of the agents I queried. It consisted of the following columns:
  • Agent Name
  • Agency the agent works for
  • Genre they represent
  • Why you like them
  • Their submission email
  • Agent's response time
  • Date I queried them
  • Agent's response to your query and date of response
I color coded my spreadsheet according to if the agent sent a rejection, or if they asked for a partial/full MS. In addition, I kept an eye on the agents response time. If an agent said they would get back to me in 4 weeks and its been 6, I assumed their answer was "no." I classified them as a rejection, so I could stop worrying about them.

Additional Tips: The first 25 or 30 query letters you send out will be nervous-making (as Scott Westerfeld would say). Know this is normal. There will be a time when you will push the send button without thinking about it. You'll get the hang of it. For example, when I was researching an agent or agency website, I scanned it for specific things like genre's, what the agents typically requested, and their personality. It can become a quick jump from one agent to the next. Have fun with it. I did with the Excel spreadsheet. And laughing off rejection emails.

Need to Know Item: You WILL receive rejections. It DOES NOT mean you suck as a writer. Remember this industry is super subjective. One agent may be looking for what you've written while another may be in the market for other stories. It's ok to get rejections. They are normal. You can cry and eat chocolate while veging on the couch for a while. But pick yourself up and query some more.

You can do it! If I can, anyone can.

What are your query tips?

Writing. Jewels.


  1. Thanks for the awesome tips! I'll be starting the query adventure soon, so this will really come in handy.

    1. Glad I could be of help. Yay, for querying! It is fun but hard at the same time. I'm here for ya! You can do it!

  2. Great tips :) But if I can add a thought? I think it's important also to take a chance. If there's an agent that doesn't say they specialize in fantasy, but YA, and your work is a YA fantasy, don't hesitate. I got loads of requests from the most unlikely agents. In fact, most of the agents I got requests from didn't seem like they were a fit on paper. You never know. Just go for it. ;)

  3. I'm past that point, but I LOVE what you set up. I did almost the same thing, but not quite as detailed.
    It was awesome to have first 5, 10, 1st chapter. etc...

  4. These are really great tips. Thank you! I'm going to be querying soon so this is super helpful. One thing I've realized so far is that researching agents and getting everything together is a lot of work! But it's smart to take the time to make sure everything is all together before you begin. I love your idea to have the different chunks of your manuscript saved in separate documents.