Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Yes, the query, normally it's a one page letter that decides your fate with the agents. Includes a summary, what's unique about it, where it fits in the market, credentials (if you have any,which unfortunately, I don't).
First you have to write it, and it has to be perfection. It has to be better than your novel, more intriguing, better written, error free. If it's not, you can forget about them looking at even one page of your novel.
Then you have to do your research. My favorite place for this is agentquery.com You can look agents up by keywords, genre, name, agency. It's all there at your fingertips. And they have submission guidelines right there on site. They also have the agency website links which is helpful. I always check their sites to see if their guidelines have changed since their last agentquery update.
Like I said, most agents just take the query letter, but some want pages, some want a synopsis, some want it by e-mail, some by snail mail. Make sure you follow these guidelines else you're sure to be run through the shredder.
Here's how I work it. I send out those who take e-mail first, without synopsis. If I've gone through all those to no avail, I then go for e-mail with synopsis, after that, it's snail mail submissions.
Do spell-check your query letter before mailing it out. Um, I would hope this would be a given.
Do make your query letter one page. Agents have little time on their hands. Make is quick.
Do follow submission guidelines.
Do mention in your query letter whether or not the submission will be simultaneous or exclusive. Instant turn off, an agent interested in your work and you come back and tell them you're already agented. Can you say black balled?
Do date and sign your query letter. Unless it's e-mail of course.
Do send the query letter to the proper person. No, "Dear Agent" letters. They don't like that. And try to spell their name correctly, and know if they are male or female.
Do send queries on clean, not wrinkled, plain white 8 ½ by 11inch computer paper. Duh.
Do specifically mention the genre and word count of your book.
Do include your name, address, telephone number, and email address, but not your social security number on the letter. Yeah, you'd like them to be able to get a hold of you, right?
Do not type query letter on colored paper, decorated paper, or scented paper. The sign of an amateur.
Do not place confetti inside of the Query Letter's Envelope. Have you ever opened a letter with confetti? Instant social death.
Do not send gifts, treats, or food with your query letter. They don't like this. Who knew?
Do not send photos with your query letter. Especially naked ones.
I like to keep an excel spreadsheet on the agent's I've queried. I note their name, agency, the date I queried, date they requested a full or partial, and the date rejected.
If you've never queried before, know this, you will not get a helpful rejection. Rejections can be anything from a hand written note on your own query saying, "not for me" to a personalized letter stating why they don't want your novel. Some will be postcard size, some a full sheet of paper. All will be devastating.
That's all for today. Happy Querying!!
PS, my friend Ian wanted to comment, but couldn't from his cell phone, this is what he said (the colored comments behind his comments are from me :):
Point of correction: don't waste query space mentioning multiple submissions or exclusives. Agents assume you are subbing to more than one at a time. The ONLY time this should ever come up is if an agent requests a full. Proper etiquette then is to notify any agents who have partials (either requested or via the normal query process). That way they can move your stuff to the top of their stack and make a quick determination whether they want to see a full as well. You want multiple agents considering you at all times. You don't need to notify those you've queried with only queries unless they request pages. (Good point. I suppose they assume it's going to be a multiple these days)
Never grant an exclusive longer than a month or two, because that's time your manuscript is sitting on a desk in a stack and not finding you a potential agent. Never offer an exclusive without being asked.
I used to use an excel spreadsheet, but then I found QueryTracker.net, and they have a better tracking/research engine already in place. Don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to.(I used querytracker and found it helpful, but then they changed their format and I got all lost. Maybe I'll try again.)
If you consider rejections to be devastating, you'll never survive in this industry. is a must. My own earned a whopping 140+ rejections. You have to get used to them, because the numbers don't lie. Look at some agent blogs comparing the number of queries they get compared to the number of clients they sign. (I don't really find rejections devastating, that was supposed to be funny, they're more of an irritation than anything)
Thanks for the comments Ian. Good advice.
My Dad. He's awesome.
John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney