I’m in the thick of querying my latest manuscript, so I thought I’d do a quick post on all the knowledge I’ve gained through my 200+ queries and rejections! It’s a little something I like to call:
Jenna P’s Top Five Truths of Querying
1. Don’t query too soon
It’s SO tempting to hit that send button the minute you type THE END, but don’t. Let it sit for a couple of weeks. Wait for the feedback. Use that time to create a list of folks you want to query when the time is right. You can spend days on AgentQuery.com just filtering through the database of agents. Determine how many you’ll send out in a batch and what those batches will be. Gather it all into a spreadsheet and start googling, but don’t hit send. Not yet.
I’m impatient. I know it, so there’s no point in lying about it. I can’t tell you the number of opportunities I probably blew by querying too soon, so trust someone who’s been there. Give it time.
2. Choose your strategy
Every writer has an opinion on what works best. Some like the “spaghetti on the wall” approach, querying everyone under the sun in hopes something will stick. Some are more selective with who they query, targeting only those they feel would fit them best.
I started out with the spaghetti method, but have since moved to the selective method. It’s really just a matter of experience. The longer you follow someone on Twitter, the more you understand their interests and if you’d fit well together. The more writers you meet, the more you hear about this agent or that agent and if they’re the kind of person you want a lasting relationship with.
The list can also narrow as you discover who you are as a writer. Do you write literary or commercial? Women’s Fiction or Romance? Paranormal or Magical Realism? It seems like a no brainer, but all these terms can be confusing to a new writer.
Querying, if you’re doing it correctly, can take up a lot of your writing time. And being rejected over and over again can mess with the mojo of even the thickest skinned writers. Why not save it for those agents and editors you have the best chance with?
3. One size doesn’t fit all
There is not a query template out there that will satisfy every agent and editor’s preferences on query format, so don’t waste your time or money trying to find one. Some like an introductory paragraph, others want the hook immediately after the salutation. Some say three sentences, others say seven. Some want you to compare yourself to other authors, some think that’s pretentious.
Personally, I like a quick couple sentences before I jump into the meat. It’s kinda like kissing a guy without introducing yourself to do it the other way. But remember….it’s not about you. It’s about what the agents and editors like to see. If you can’t find anything about their preference, then do it the way you feel most comfortable.
Of course, there are a few items you should ALWAYS include in a query, and they are: Title, genre, and word count. I have never submitted a query that didn’t include these.
4. DO YOUR RESEARCH!!
In today’s internet and social media world, there is no excuse for not doing your homework. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, websites, Writer’s Digest, Publisher’s Marketplace, AgentQuery, QueryTracker – agent and editor likes and dislikes are all over them! Follow them, google them, read every blog they’ve posted and guest posted on. It won’t guarantee a request, but it will get you one step closer. And for the love of God, people…
5. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!!
Repeat after me: No matter how amazing my mother said my manuscript is, I am probably NOT the exception to the rule. Guidelines apply to EVERYONE. You might just be the next Stephen King, but no one is going to have a chance to discover it if you send three chapters instead of the requested five pages, or call daily at 10am to check on the status of your query. Do your research, follow the guidelines, and pay your dues.
There you have it. They may not help you write that perfect hook, but I hope they give you a better chance in having that perfect hook read by the agent of your dreams!