Since WriteOnCon.com ended, I’ve been thinking a lot about querying. I haven’t sent a query letter myself since January 2011 (Hallelujah), but you might say I have a bit of experience.
Writing them, Sending them, Angsting over them.
Yes, there are other ways to attract an agent, but querying is still the primary path (anecdotally. don’t ask me for data, but check out #slushpile on twitter.)
Some of you might remember my “How I got My Agent” story. I queried a lot before signing with my wonderful agent (Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary). Sixty-seven, give or take. Not that I counted. (Here’s the link: http://krisasselin.blogspot.com/2011/03/my-agent-story.html)
It always drove me crazy to see people quit after only a few queries. Or despair that it would never happen for them. And it drove me really crazy when people signed with an agent after one or two queries. Cause, you know, they didn’t spend a lot of time in the trenches (call me childish, I know).
But the bottom line is, you can’t compare yourself to your neighbor. It’s like looking over and seeing that Chuck got an A+ on his paper. It makes your B look like crap. But you’ve worked hard for that B—embrace it and celebrate!
For some people, the query letter is the worst part of writing the book. Synthesizing 60K+words into a paragraph is hard! For others, it’s part of the writing process. I know people who write the query letter as part of their outlining process. The fact is, even if you meet an agent at a conference and you connect, you’ll still have to write some kind of query/coverletter about your book. So unless you’re self-publishing, you’re going to have to have a solid letter that introduces your book to an agent.
Failproof Querying (based on my personal experience):
- 1. Everyone always says don’t query too early. But the fact is, everyone does. If you must, send one or two out early to get it out of your system. Just don’t go crazy, cause you’ll want to scratch your eyeballs out later when you realize you sent too early.
- 2. Don’t worry about a personalized opening—the agent has limited time, and wants to read about your book. Unless you have a real personalization (you met at a conference, or your cousin is her hairdresser), just start with your logline or jump into the main paragraph about your book.
- 3. You’ve only got a few sentences to make an impact. Use strong words to describe your book. Skip the back story. Leave out all minor characters and focus on the protagonist. What’s at stake for your MC? What makes your book unique?
- 4. Include your word count, and any publishing credits. No publishing credits? Don’t worry!
- 5. Keep it to one page. Short and sweet.
- 6. Send out 4 or 5 at a time. If you’re just getting form rejections for a couple of rounds, reassess your query. If you’re getting partials and full requests, your query is fine. Keep on keeping on. Consider any feedback you get, and think about revision—of both your query and your novel. (There’s no such thing as “it’s done.” You need to ALWAYS be open to revision.)
- 7. If you get rejections, MOVE ON. Don’t dwell, don’t take it personally. Don’t get mad at the agent. Rewrite what you need to rewrite and move on. You wanted to be a writer, right?
- 8. Don’t quit. It’s not fast. It was over a year from my first (premature) query to signing with Vickie.
And remember, this is MY opinion. There are exceptions to every rule, and there may be people who disagree with me.
Vickie Motter’s great post about What Not to Include in your Query:
I’ll offer to critique the queries of the first five comments. Don’t leave your query here, but include your contact information and I’ll be in touch.