A Roundup of Query Resources

Now that my CPs have given me the green light to query agents, I'm back in the query trenches. While I'm beyond excited to have made it to this step with A STOLEN THRONE, it's also super nerve-wracking. This process could take months and months and months and result in nothing. To keep myself sane, I'm already brainstorming my next novel (not a sequel, but a totally different novel. Read why here.) and am getting excited about my new project.

But since I'm currently battling through the query trenches, I thought it might be helpful to present a round up of all things query-related, from how to write a query letter to how to deal with rejection. I hope some of this helps make your query journey suck just a little less.

Pre-Querying

Before you send queries out to agents, you'll need to do a couple of things. Top on that list is finish your book, revise your book, get feedback on your book, revise again, and repeat until you're positive the book is as good as you can make it. Do not query a book that you haven't finished or that you haven't revised. Once you've done that, you're ready to write your query letter and research agents.

Resources for Writing a Query Letter/Synopsis

  • Susan Dennard is typically my go-to resource for all things publishing, and query letters are no exception. Here is her guide to writing a query letter.
     
  • The writers over at querytracker.net offer great feedback on query letters in the forums. If you don't have other writer friends who can look over your query letter, definitely check out this resource. You need people who haven't read the book to critique your query. Why? Because they can best tell you if anything is confusing.
     
  • You can also get your query reviewed over at Query Shark. I never used this website, but YA Leaguer David Purse recommended it, and it seems excellent. You can also review other queries that have been revised to learn what works and what doesn't. If you want to use this resource, be sure to check out the rules for submitting.
     
  • Writers Digest has a series call Successful Queries where Lit Agents share the queries that ultimately got them to request a book they signed. The agents explain why the query worked for them and often include some tips on things to avoid. Definitely a good idea to check this out, especially if one of the agents is someone you plan to query.
     
  • Some agents, though not all, will request a short synopsis of your work. Some will request this at the query stage, and others will request you send a synopsis when you send your full. Here is Susan Dennard's guide to writing a 1-page synopsis (it's super helpful).

Researching Agents and the Query Process in General

  • Querytracker.net (QT) is probably my most used tool in the query process. I use it to find agents (who I later research in more depth to determine whether they stay on my list), to keep track of who I've queried and who has rejected already, and to keep tabs on where agents are in their piles (as other QT members will post when they queried and when they've heard back, so I can get a sense for who is a fast responder and who I might need to wait a few months to hear from).
     
  • The other big resource I use in researching agents is Publishers Marketplace. PM allows you to see what kind of deals agents are making and where. This is especially helpful if you have a specific goal for your book (as I hope you do). So, say you definitely want to see your book in print. If an agent has only ever sold books for e-book publication, she's probably not the best fit for you. Additionally, if an agent says she reps YA, but all her sales are in picture books, she may not be the right agent for your YA novel. PM also tells you which specific publisher the agent sold the work to, so you can get a sense of where she has good contacts.
     
  • Dahlia Adler (who is fabulously funny on twitter) has an excellent series of blog posts about the query process. The series covers everything from querying strategies to feelings about twitter pitch contests. Before you start querying, it's a good idea to get an idea of how you want to do it. Are you going to be using traditional queries only (i.e. unsolicited queries to agents open to such queries) or do you also want to participate in twitter contests? Do you want to query just a couple at a time, or do you want to send them in bigger batches?

Querying: Keeping Track of It All

The main resource I use to keep track of who I've queried when is QT. In case it's helpful for some of you, here's my process for keeping track of queries:

  • Compile list of agents, ranked into three groups based on PM sales and perceived personality via online interviews. (I label them as 8, 9, and 10 on QT.)
  • Mark favorites (the heart icon on QT) in each category -- agents I tend to mark as favorites are those who are either vocally pro-diversity, agent for an author I really admire, or who said something in an interview I really connected with.
  • Put the personalized query in each agent's Query Letter tab. This makes it super easy to email each agent since all I have to do is copy-paste the personalized query and add the appropriate number of sample pages.
  • Mark the agent as queried and add a "Reminder." Depending on what the agency page says, I'll either label the timer "consider rejection" after the time frame that "no means no" or put a "nudge" reminder. This 100% depends on the individual agent. If they mention no reply time on their website, I use the reports function to get a sense for when I should hear back and have a "consider rejection" time just a smidgen longer than the average "no" wait time.
  • As agents reply, I update QT with their response. Most are rejections, so I just file as rejected and remove the reminder. If someone requests pages, I update the reminder date to reflect when I should nudge if I haven't heard back.
  • As the reminders pop up on the screen, I either nudge or mark agents as "Closed/No Response"

Part of what I love about QT is that you can then filter the agents. You can view only those who I haven't queried yet, or pull the list of outstanding submissions. The hyper organized person in me LOVES that.

Now, what do you do if/when an agent requests a full or partial of your MS? Susan Dennard has you covered. Check out her guide to formatting the email used to send your novel to the requesting agent. If an agent offers while others still have your full/query, there's a second form in that post on how to handle that as well (isn't Sooz great? The correct answers is YES!).

You've Got an Offer! Now What?

First, you best be celebrating! Serious, huge congrats on the offer! Now, I hope you've only queried agents with whom you would want to sign, so I bet you're over the moon! (Okay, enough exclamation points, but seriously, celebrate. You earned it.)

The agent will likely want to call you to chat about your book and make the official offer. You'll want to prepare a list of questions to ask the agent. Susan Dennard has a great starting list for you if you're stumped on what to include.

You'll also want to let all the other agents with your full know that you have an offer on the table. Some will pass simply because they don't have time to read it before your deadline. This is why it's SO important to only query agents you'd be happy to work with. You don't want your dream agent to pass because you gave them a deadline they couldn't meet. Here's Susan Dennard's guide to emailing those agents to inform them off your offer of rep (in case you missed it above).

Please be sure to really think through this decision and don't jump on the first offer that comes in if it doesn't feel right. I've heard enough stories of authors having to sever relationships with agents who weren't a good fit. Don't rush. Be patient. 

But seriously, don't forget to celebrate!

All in all, querying is a time of great turmoil. There are many ways to make it suck less (commiserating with writer friends, binging on Netflix, etc.), but the best way?

Start your next novel.

Trust me, you'll be glad you did. I know I'm certainly enjoying getting lost in a new world. If you're not ready to start something new right away, reading for fun is another great way to stay distracted and avoid obsessive checking of your email.

And that's it! You tell me, did I miss your favorite query resource? Leave me a comment to let me know and I'll add it to the blog.

Good luck in the query trenches!

-Isabel