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.
- 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