The Query Process

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Hi All. I have a special treat for you today. I’ve been agented and writing for so long, that I don’t have a fresh vision of the marketplace anymore, so I asked a friend (newly agented, newly published) to post on the early process. This is excellent, BTW!  :)  Please welcome Amanda Carlson, author of Full Blooded.

Hello everyone. I’m so happy to be here! My topic today is queries. One of the biggest hurdles to publication is finding the right agent.

When I finished my manuscript, I spent a lot of time doing research. I combed the internet and read everything I could about the query process. Luckily I found lots of great information. Once I’d been successful landing an agent, instead of deleting all my hard work, I decided to compile the information so I could share it with others. This, of course, is only my personal opinion of the process. There are many other ways to query. Below is what worked for me.

How to style a query:

**FIRST and foremost, DON’T ever query unless your fiction manuscript is polished and completed. No exceptions. Agents can ask for pages the same day you query (and often do). It’s a complete waste of time if you don’t have it done, for both parties. It’s a lose, lose. **

  • 250 words is enough. More than enough. The art of the query is to bundle up what you’re selling into a nice, gripping, concise package. You’re a writer. That’s what you do. (250 does not include salutations, title and word count, or thank yous. 250 is the meat.)
  • Start your query out with a zing. No matter how much you want to detail the characters, it doesn’t matter. Write a gripping first line. Draw them in from the get-go.
  • Write it. Let it sit. Edit. And repeat. There’s no need to rush. I started writing a sample blurb months before I started querying. Each time I opened it, I tweaked it.
  • Let someone else read it. If they can’t explain the rough plot of your book to you, you did it wrong. So do it again.
  • DON’T list all your characters by name. Or jump too deeply into your world/premise. It’s too confusing for such a short blurb. Keep it simple and highlight the protagonist.
  • Try to have a beginning, middle and an end. The urge to touch on the whole book is strong. But you can’t cover your whole book in 250 words. That’s what a synopsis is for. This is an exciting blurb to HIGHLIGHT your book. That’s it.
  • NO happy talk. It’s not necessary. I can’t stress this enough. Agents do not want to know you guys both like puppies, or are from the same town, or you’d be a great match because of xyz, or that you’re the next great thing (especially that). They’re strapped for time. They want to get to the gold and move on. So give them what they want.
  • DO include important writing credentials or important memberships, or anything else that screams you’re someone.
  • DON’T add anything else. This is where the panic for happy talk comes into play. Refrain. Refrain. Refrain.

Finding Agents/Sending Queries

  • Research your agent picks well. Follow them on Twitter. Read their blogs. Go to querytracker.net. Go to agentquery.com. Go to Publishersmarketplace.com. Bookmark these places and then go back again. There is nothing worse than querying an agent who doesn’t rep your genre. Do your research.
  • GO read the submission page on your agent-of-choice’s website. And follow it to the letter. Every agent wants something different. Do what they want.
  • Only query ONE agent in an agency. If two or three rep your genre, pick one.
  • DON’T e-mail them to check up on your query, or ask if they’ve gotten it, or to see why it’s taking so long. After two months, if they say to re-query on their submission page, re-query. If not, it’s a no.
  • DO query multiple agents at a time. Some want to know if it’s a multiple submission, but most know it is. Read their submission page.
  • DON’T take rejections to heart. This is the hardest part. Try and remember this is a quest to find the RIGHT match for you. Someone who falls in love with your writing. Someone who is excited to sell it. Maybe this agent loves your voice, but they already rep two books just like it. Think about how specific your own reading tastes are. Remember when your best friend said s/he loved “This Book” and you hated it? Tastes run different. Keep querying. You will NOT get an agent if you don’t send out queries.
  • Send out 5 – 10 a day. Keep tweaking your query. It will get better and better.

Requests/Offers:

  • If an agent requests a partial (3 chapters + synopsis usually) or full (the whole enchilada), first, take time to pat yourself on the back. Enjoy the moment. It’s a great accomplishment! Next, send it out asap, exactly how they’ve requested it.
  • DO NOT e-mail other agents to tell them you’ve gotten a request for pages. This is expected. Only e-mail them if you receive an offer.
  • DO keep querying. There is no guarantee the agent who requested pages will offer. Plus, it may take them up to 60 days to get back to you. Don’t waste your time.
  • DON’T get down if an agent requests your pages, but ultimately rejects you a week later. This happens all the time. View it instead as validation that your writing & query were good enough to get your foot in the door. Remember fondly that J. K. Rowling had a fistful of rejections. Then smile.
  • If you receive an OFFER, yippee! You did it right! You enticed them to read it, and guess what? They LOVED it! Now comes the big decision time. You have all these unanswered queries out. What’s you next step?

There are two ways to handle this:

  • 1) If you KNOW this is the agent for you: Meaning you love them, know all their work, know all their clients, read about all their recent deals – you are absolutely allowed to choose them. Make sure you have a conversation on the phone before you absolutely accept. The next step is to send out a NOTIFICATION of REPRESENTATION e-mail (put that in the subject line) to all other agents you’ve queried. This is just a brief note telling them you’ve been offered representation, and have already chosen to go with someone. Thank them for their time. They need to know this so they don’t waste their time reading your pages for nothing.
  • 2) If you have other agents considering your pages, or you’d like to give all the agents you’ve queried a chance to offer you send out an OFFER of REPRESENTATION e-mail. This is a brief note saying that you have an offer, but are giving them one week (or up to ten days) to consider your work before you accept.
  • Some agents will bump you up to priority if they’re interested. You may not get any interest OR you may get requests within hours. There’s a chance they may offer too. Take their phone calls, read their e-mails and consider what they bring to the table. (Don’t get down if no one else offers, you already have an offer — it’s the best news ever!)
  • Now you have to make the BEST decision you can make based on everything you’ve heard and learned (not a bad place to be). My personal advice? Go with your gut. Go with the person who is so excited to rep your career, not just in this one manuscript. You want someone who is ecstatic about your mad writing skills. This is ultimately going to be a long business partnership (we all hope) and liking each other is extremely important.
  • GOOD LUCK! Can’t wait to see you in print!

I want to thank Magical Words for hosting me today. My urban fantasy debut FULL BLOODED is in stores now. If you’re interested in finding out more about me, my books, querying, full bio, links to social media, please visit my website at www.amandacarlson.com 

 

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19 comments to The Query Process

  • Ken

    Welcome Amanda! Thank you SO much for posting this. I got jazzed just reading it.

    Congrats on the successes you’ve had so far…now off to check out your website :)

  • What a useful list of tips! I’m going to add this to one of my link-lists on my blog. Welcome, and thanks! I hope I’ll need to use some of the tips on offers soon. 😉

  • Amanda Carlson

    Thanks, Ken! I’m glad I could jazz you up. And thanks for posting.

    @LScribeHarris That’s what I did! I linked everything I could find until I decided to write it all here, LOL. I so hope it’s as useful for you as it was for me.

    Amanda Carlson

  • Amanda, thanks so much for being here today. This stuff was really really good!

  • Amanda Carlson

    Thanks so much for inviting me, Faith! It’s so fun to share all this with the writing community. It’s one of the biggest, scariest things we have to do as writers.

    Amanda Carlson

  • mudepoz

    This is wonderful. Now I’m depressed. Up to three months, hey? *Counts on fingers. 5 months.* Sigh.

  • Solid, specific advice, Amanda. This is great stuff. Thanks so much for joining us here at Magical Words, and best of luck with FULL BLOODED!

  • Amanda Carlson

    Thanks so much, David! I was happy to have the chance to share my experiences. I’m not sure if my comments are up yet, since I’m new — on my end they say they’re *waiting approval* but thanks to everyone for posting.

    @mudepoz Keep at it. If you’re waiting to hear, keep querying!

    Amanda Carlson

  • Amanda, thank you so much for pulling all of this information together and sharing it with us! I’m not yet ready for querying, but I’m bookmarking this and saving it for when I am ready.

  • Thank you for putting all this information together. I found the notification/offer of representation part the most helpful. Hope to get there someday :)

  • sagablessed

    First: Welcome, young lady, to the writing family that is MW! A truly womderful place to be.
    Second: This is has been a much needed post. Especially from fresh eyes. Much as I love the contributors here, it is good to get info from someone fresh in the field. (Hope no one is upset here. Just being honest.)
    I also am book-marking this for future reference.
    Would say more, but need to write before my brain explodes.

  • Amanda Carlson

    Thank you all for posting. So happy to share today. I hope you’ll all need it later and I wish you all the very best on the road to publication!

    Amanda Carlson

  • Saga, I’ve been looking for / hoping to find someone like Amanda, fresh in the sales, for just this advice. She gave it beautifully.

  • quillet

    There’s so much excellent information here, thank you! I’m definitely bookmarking this.

  • Thank you for such a thorough checkkist, Amanda! I’ve favourited it, and I’m definitely going to refer to a *lot* when I begin my search. :)

  • Love the post. Some of this stuff I’ve never hears before. Quick question, what’s the difference between a blurb and a synaposis?

  • Vyton

    Amanda, thank you for this great information. It’s the best I’ve seen on querying. Good luck with your book. Faith, thank you for bringing on Amanda. This is very helpful.

  • Amanda Carlson

    @WaitforHim A blurb is a short way to highlight your story. As I said above your query should be around 250 words. That’s the highlighted “blurb” I’m talking about. Some agents ask for pages + a synopsis of your story. The synopsis outlines your entire story like a play-by-play. It can be between 3-10 pages. Mine was short because I don’t like writing them, LOL! So it was more like 3 pages.

    I recommend to anyone querying to have a synopsis written and ready to go. Some agents want to see the arc of your story before they decide to jump in.

    Hope this helps!
    Amanda Carlson

  • Gypsyharper

    This is really wonderful information. I will definitely bookmark it and point it out to my writing group. Thanks for joining us, Amanda! And thanks to Faith for inviting her!