Hey Bookworms. So the query process. The dreaded months long cycle of rejection, hope, and triumph. It is something that every writer must go through, even established authors still query their work. I’m here to talk about my process and experience, hopefully you can get some helpful tips out of this little querying guide.
First: have the right resources. While random googling is one way to go, it’s not the most effective. I always have a copy of Writers Market on hand. I update this book every two years; because, it’s expensive so I can’t buy a new copy every year. It’s on Amazon and in Barnes and Nobel so wherever you get your books, it’s there.
This book is magic.
It has complete lists of all the agents and publishers available in that year; as well as, helpful tips on querying and getting your work ready to go. This book is THICK.
Another effective way to find publishers in agents is to look in the back of your favorite book (or front depending on the layout). Especially if it’s there first book, almost every writer thanks their agent. Do you love Hunger Games? Is your manuscript a YA dystopian story that includes a messy love triangle? You might want to send it to Suzanne Collins’ agent.
** Bonus Tip: It’s always a good idea to talk about agents and publishers previous works in query letters. Example: I’m querying you for my story because of the work you did with Veronica Roth in “Divergent”. Both novels feature a strong female voice and dystopian setting.**
So once you have your materials (and hopefully a finished manuscript) it’s time to write the query letter. When I queried “The Wordshop Man” I followed a simple outline that worked well enough to get the book published, so I stick with it.
- Address the agent or publisher
- Introduce the work with the Title, genre, and word count
- Give a brief summary of the manuscript
- Always start with character, in a setting, who has an obstacle to overcome
- Include a brief bio of yourself including previous publications, platforms, and education
- Leave them with an offer for the first ten pages (unless they specify on their website that they want it right away) and include your contact information.
Easier said than done, right? I normally revise my query letter about three times. I read it to friends who are readers. If they are hooked by my synopsis, an agent might be too.
When you have your letter, as good as it’s going to get, it’s time to send it out. I normally create a list of all the agents I’m querying. I set up a color coordinated system, that way I know who I’m waiting to hear form, who rejected the manuscript, and who is interested.
Now all that’s left is to be patient. I wish I could say this part is easy, it’s not. Distract yourself, start writing another project or read a good book. Most agencies will say 6-8 weeks for a response. Sadly, a good number of agencies will never respond if they aren’t interested. Don’t be discouraged. There is a market for every story, but get the basics right first.
I’ll leave you with five Best Practices for making sure your manuscript is ready for querying:
- Be 100% certain that there are no typos. Typos are unprofessional and even if they like your story, they won’t work with you if you aren’t professional.
- Follow all the agency submission guidelines. Someone who can’t follow directions is first on the rejection list.
- Read agents bio’s. If this person says their most interested in historical dramas, don’t send them a short story compilation if contemporary issues. Query to the appropriate audience.
- Ensure that your main character is always the center of attention. Readers connect to characters more than any other aspect of a story. Lead with character.
- Finally, utilize family members and friends willing to read early versions of your work. There’s no sense in querying your work before it’s ready. Ultimately, querying an unfinished manuscript will only lead to rejection.
Keep Reading and Writing Bookworms xx