How I Query Agents

My manuscript is currently sitting in the inbox/slush pile of 10 agents. This is my second time querying and I definitely felt much more prepared this time around. So I thought I’d share some tips with you guys about how I go about QUERYING!

I know, I know, all the articles online make querying seem like this ridiculously difficult and time consuming task. It’s really not that big of a deal compared to, you know, writing an entire novel. How easy is it, you ask? I sent out 10 queries in about about an hour and a half.

1. Finish the Manuscript

This seems like a no-brainer but just in case you’re considering it, DON’T. If you query an unfinished story, at some point, an agent is gonna wanna see the full thing. If you can’t deliver, they’ll probably just move on and be irritated AF with you.

2. Draft your query letter

Almost every agent is going to want a query letter. It’s just a short letter pitching your book, why you’re interested in them and a little background info on yourself.

Now I’ve seen one author mention she drafted her query letter 17 times. I studied english and creative writing for seven years and I have never drafted anything that many times. If you follow the basic template, you should not be spending months working on the query letter.

As long as you’re not telling the agent to go and screw themselves, they’re going to be more interested in the story than the perfection of the letter.

You can google sample letter queries and copy/paste your info into them. But the basics of the query letter are as follows:

-Contact Info (Name, address, email, phone)
-Greeting (Address agent by name)
-Intro (Word count, title and genre of story + why you think it’s a good fit for this agent)
-Pitch/Synopsis (What’s the story about? SELL IT. Like the info on a bookflap)
-Bio (Anything you want to add about yourself, publishing history, education, location, etc.)

3. Proofread Draft but don’t overthink it

Definitely make sure there are no typos and that you change all names when using the letter for different agents.

But don’t drive yourself crazy over it. The query letter is just a means to get the agent to ask for your sample or read your sample. That’s it. Unless you’ve made some grave error, they’re going to read your writing sample to see if it’s a fit.

My first round of queries, I had 4 or 5 agents request partials and then fulls. My query letter was mainly things I’d googled. I didn’t spent too much time on it and it served it’s purpose because agents were reading my sample.

IMO, your success querying is nearly entirely dependent on their interest in your manuscript. Another blog post for another time…

4. Choose which agents to query

Picking an agent is just like dating, if you have something of quality to offer, BE PICKY.

I compiled a list of 10 agents based on several factors. This all depends on what type of manuscript you’re querying. My story is a young adult novel about a young black girl. I looked up books similar to mine, found the author’s agent, and bam, if they seemed decent I put them on my list.

Don’t query just anybody so you can have an agent. If they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re not selling other people’s books, it’s a waste of your time. You want to find someone who has secured some recent book deals, preferably books similar to yours.

5. The Waiting Game

Once you’ve sent your queries, there’s not much to do but wait until you hear a response. I like to keep a journal of the dates I queried which agents and what their response time is.

A lot of agents will tell you on their submissions page that they’ll get back to within a month or they’ll only respond if they’re interested within 3months, etc. If you beyond that time length and you haven’t heard from them, write them off and query another agent.

Unless their site specifically requests you to, don’t call/email to check up on the progress of your manuscript. If they’re decent agents, they’re probably very busy. Either they haven’t gotten to your manuscript in the slush pile or they’re not interested.

6. Know when it’s time to move on

If you’re getting no responses or a lot of rejections, it might be time to look at your manuscript again. If you’re confident that it’s a good story that will sell, by all means, query at least 100 agents before you throw in the towel.

But if agents aren’t requesting partials or fulls, there might be an issue with the sample. This is difficult because most agents only want the first chapter or 10 pages of your novel.

It doesn’t matter if the story gets really good around page 25, you need to use those first ten pages to pull them in since that’s all they’re going to see.

Even though I had fulls from several agents, I knew deep down that my manuscript needed some work. It’s possible I would have secured an agent at some point if I kept querying, but if you’re not happy with your work, fix it. You don’t want your first novel to be something you’re not proud of, even if you manage to score an agent and a book deal from it.

In Conclusion…
Querying can be an exciting and terrifying time for us unpublished authors. Try not to take it too seriously, after all, you wrote a novel and that’s the hardest part!

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