Google, “How to query agents,” “Query agents,” “How to write queries,” and you’ll find over eight million results available. Not to mention the number of books on query writing you can find at your local library.
Querying agents is a tough process. I’m totally for it. Having been rejected years ago, over one hundred times by agents/publishers with my first novel, Love’s Perfect Surrender, and then independently publishing it myself; I value and believe in separating the slush pile from the “diamonds in the rough”.
Writing a book is hard enough. Everyone says they want to write a book, but it takes discipline to weave a storyline, a good storyline. But then, once that is complete, you have to sell your concept to agents/publishers, whom have tastes and desires of their own, and who then must sell your storyline to those who will put it in print.
So you see, I’ve come to the realization that querying agents is like… “speed-dating. The prospects are endless, but the best match can only occur if there is a connection, an attraction to the storyline, and the desire from both parties to commence a long-lasting relationship.”
But, unlike dating, hooking and breaking through to the right agent can be complicated. It starts with knowing your genre. It used to be that there were only a few genres under Fiction, some include:
Today, there are sub-genres under practically every genre, such as:
And what about the categories of writing:
- Young Adult
- New Adult
And then, there are:
- Chapter books
- Picture books
- Comic books
The lists go on…So, know the genre you’re writing. Click here for a listing of genres.
And then, pay attention to the specific writing requirements from the agents/publishers that you are querying. They can ask for any of the following, and more…
- First five pages of a manuscript,
- First ten pages of a manuscript,
- First three chapters of a manuscript,
- Full Synopsis (with spoiler) and the first fifty pages,
- Last three chapters (yes, I’ve seen this),
- An outline listing all the chapters, including,
- Chapter descriptions,
- Your Bio,
- Audience appeal,
- Comparable books,
- Book sales from previous books,
- And finally, how you plan on marketing your book.
Though, none of this should surprise anyone. It’s what’s needed for the agents to make the right decision on whether to dump your query in a slush pile, or take a chance on your story. It’s cut throat, yes, but there are more books out there than there are people reading them. The market is saturated enough, and there needs to be filters. And, in an age where there are sites that you can post your writings, blogging, and companies that offer self-publishing, we are constantly inundated with words. Lots of words…
So, how does one land an agent?
- Careful preparation on your end; the writer,
- Speed-dating – querying the right agents/publishers based on your writings,
- A good dose of divine intervention.
Here are some other thoughts on the basic ingredients of getting noticed.
- Write the story. Not to fit a category or certain topic, but actually write it. From start to finish.
- Perfect the story. Hire an editor to have them review, cut it to shreds, and then revise and revise the story.
- Create the following:
- Short synopsis,
- Long synopsis,
- Book jacket content,
- Chapter outline,
- Character Tracking Grid (I do this with all my stories. It’s a listing of character names, their physical looks, and emotional temperaments.),
- Determine themes within your story, or it may be one theme that resonates throughout.
These are for you to develop and polish. Later, you will have it ready to hand off when the agent/publisher requests it. Take your time, and…
- Study query writing, and write the best query you can.
- Research agents/publishers carefully. Review their submission guidelines. Send only to those that are compatible with your writing. Gosh, be selective. Don’t waste your time on those that will reject you right off the bat because you didn’t follow the guidelines.
- Rejection letters will come…Don’t let that deter you…Never give up.
As for me, I haven’t found my match/Romeo agent yet, but I continue querying. Below, is a sample of my query letter for my second novel, Make it Right; Make it Matter.
Take a read. Leave a comment. I would love your feedback.
Dear Mr./Ms. Agent/Publisher (Name of the agent),
I found your agency name through (This is important. Let the agent know where you found his/her agent information). According to your agency, I see you’re actively seeking Women’s fiction. Let me introduce you to my 83,000 word novel, Make it Right; Make it Matter. An alcohol-addicted mother of two who is spiraling in guilt and resentment; she must surrender, forgiving her past so not to jeopardize her future.
THE “MINI” SYNOPSIS
Thirty-six-year-old Amanda Reynolds thought she was happily married. She has a sweet, loving, successful husband, Ryan, two beautiful daughters, Emily and Rose, and a perfect, manicured home in a quaint suburb of Chicago. However, deep inside, Amanda is harboring a secret, a past no one knows about, with the help of alcohol and crave-producing foods. On one Memorial Day, as she watched a float carrying local Marines from their tour of duty in Iraq, buried memories come flooding back, memories of being abandoned by her mother, Louise, and witnessing the death of her older brother, Joshua. This causes Amanda to go on an alcoholic binge after being sober for four years. When she awakens later in a hospital and learns she drank herself into a stupor in front of her children, Amanda realizes she has to get clean once and for all, leaving Chicago in an attempt to slay the demons that have plagued her for so many years.
Make it Right; Make it Matter will appeal to fans of Billy Coffey’s, “Snow Day”, David Baldacci’s, “Christmas Story”, Elizabeth Gilbert’s, “Eat, Pray, Love”, and the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
PREVIOUS PROMOTIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
My first novel, Love’s Perfect Surrender, a Christian romance was published in May of 2014. The novel and ebook are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Ebook only via Smashwords and Kobo. My book appears on the shelves of six local libraries. I recently earned a 5 Star rating from ReadersFavorite.com. Click here for the latest review of the novel.
WHAT I’M WORKING ON NOW
I will be independently publishing a middle-grade, short-story, fantasy fairytale, Petrella, the Gillian Princess, this summer. Click here and scroll down for a review of the book. I am a member of the Chicago Writers Association and a critique group called the Schaumburg Scribes .
Thank you for considering Make it Right; Make it Matter. I have included…(list the items requested per agent specification, i.e., in the body of the email, or in a separate document). I look forward to hearing from you should you decide Make it Right; Make it Matter is a story that is right for (add the name of the agency).
Author of “Love’s Perfect Surrender”