Hi everyone! Since I just returned from the Rose State Writing Conference, and after teaching the class on how to write a killer query, I thought I’d share some of my advice with all of you. I submitted queries for about four years and wrote four books before finding my publisher. In the end, I went with a mid-level publisher, but I still had to go through the querying process. After finally getting to that one “yes,” I thought it was about time to put some of my thoughts here:
- Research. Before you send anything, you have to know who you’re sending to. You need to know what kind of books the agent or publisher is accepting and make sure yours is that kind of book. This is basic querying 101, but SO MANY people get it wrong! I realize it takes time and extra effort, and it’s so much easier to just send a query out to the 300 agents and hope one bites, but PLEASE, don’t do it. Agents and publishers will hate you and you don’t want them to hate you. So how do you find an agent? I use a website called Agent Query to do my research. This is a great way to find agents, but always be sure to go to the agent’s actual website for the most up-to-date info, as Agent Query doesn’t always keep their info updated. Another good site to use is called Query Tracker. This website, like the previous one, is free, but this one lets you keep track of the agents you’ve queried. Personally, I just use an Excel sheet to keep track of it, but the option is there if you want it.
- Write a query letter. So much can be said on this topic that I could fill pages of info, so I’ll just stick to the basics. First basic, read every query letter on this blog–> QueryShark.blogspot.com. Yes, EVERY. ONE. After you’re done, you’ll be an expert. At least in theory. I can’t say enough about how important this is. Few agents ever tell you why they’ve rejected your query. Janet Reid, the agent who runs this blog, shows you. Chances are, most of the problems she encounters with the queries on this site are problems you’ll encounter with your own query. Have you read all the query letters yet? Good. Now, write your own. If you’re having real fundamental trouble, your problem might not be the query letter at all, and may be the actual book. Is your book finished? Have you let other qualified reviewers (not your family) read it? Has it been professionally edited? Have you attended any workshops or writing classes? I went to William Bernhardt’s writing seminars and they were phenomenal. Make sure your book is ready. Take care of it before you start the querying process or you’ll be wasting your time.
- Prepare for rejection. Even the most prolific authors get heaps of rejection letters. I don’t know all the reasons why. Sometimes it’s just timing or what’s not doing well in the market. Sometimes it has nothing to do with your query letter and more to do with the agent’s workload. Whatever the case, you need to be prepared to hear no. A lot. I would tell you to get thick skin, but, let’s face it, how? This is your book baby and someone just trashed it. Rejection sucks. And I think it’s best to accept those feelings and then move on. Send another query and then another. I’ve heard that you should query for at least a year before giving up, and during that year, write another book. I wrote three books before I got to yes, but I don’t feel like any of my previous books were a waste of time. My writing improved with every book. Self-doubt and negative thoughts won’t do you any good. The moment you quit is the moment you fail.
- My advice: Sending out cold queries to agents who’ve never met you is a slow, tedious process and rarely results in a contract. The best way to get your pages read is to meet the agents face to face in a conference. They can see and talk to you. They can ask questions about your book. And they can’t reject you with a click of a button. Get your query where it needs to be so that your pitch can be just as good. I met my publisher at the LDStorymakers conference. If you’d like to know more about Crimson Teen Publishing, feel free to visit their website.
Are you writing a query? If you’re an aspiring author, leave me a line and introduce yourself. I’d love to hear from you!
Live long and dream on!