Monday, August 17, 2015

Time to Query

Is your manuscript polished? Query letter written? Research done?

It’s almost time to send out your first bunch of queries!

I’ve seen it recommended that it’s best to query five to ten agents at a time, while other agents recommend querying up to twenty. When you start, query a small batch to see how your letter is received. If it’s getting requests, great, send out more. If agents are passing on your work or not responding, look at how you can improve your query.

After you’ve selected the first batch of agents to query, visit their websites again to check their submission guidelines and FOLLOW THEM. Agents want different things as part of your submission package. Some want a query letter only, others want a synopsis or summary and/or sample pages. You also want to check the website to make sure the agent hasn’t closed to queries.

Show the agent that you can follow instructions by adhering to their guidelines. These people look at hundreds of emails in a day. There is a formula to query letters so agents can get the details they need quickly. If your query stands out, because of the proposed story and writing, they will ask to see your manuscript.


When sending a query DO NOT:
  • Send the whole manuscript as an attachment.
  • Send your query as an attachment.
  • Send a mass email to several agents with a generic greeting.
  • Use fancy or coloured font.
  • Select an excerpt from the middle of your manuscript.
  • Send pages from your manuscript in lieu of a query.
  • Query more than one agent at an agency at a time (some agencies ask that you query one agent from the agency only, others say that if one passes on your work, then you may query another).
Doing these things can lead to agents passing your manuscript without even looking at your query letter.


When sending a query DO:
  • Follow the agent’s submission guidelines on the website.
  • Provide a sample, if requested, starting at page one of your manuscript.
  • Make your query personal, or at least use a salutation with the agent’s name you are sending the query to.
  • Only send an attachment if requested. Most agents like the synopsis and sample pages (if requested) pasted in the body of the email, under the query.
  • Proofread your query again before sending.
  • Be professional.
  • Let your writing speak for its self and make your letter stand out. You don’t need to do anything cute or gimmicky – just write the best you can.



After one final look to make sure you have everything in the email that the agent is looking for, hit send.

Now for the hard part...you wait and check your email compulsively.

Agents vary in response time. Some have reply timelines on their websites while others do not. If you follow agents on Twitter, some will post the date they have read queries up to. Resist the urge to send emails asking for an update on your query – the agent will likely bump you to the end of the line if you do.

NEVER call an agent to ask about a query.

The best way to pass the time is work on something new. Focus on a new manuscript, look for writing contests to enter or workshops to take. While you wait, look for ways to better your writing.

The replies will come in one of three forms.

1) The Rejection
You will get them and they will sting. This is a very subjective industry and you’re looking for an agent who loves your work and can use that passion to sell it. What works for one agent, doesn’t work for all. Remember than when a rejection comes.

It’s been said that you should aim to collect 100 rejections. Some very famous authors received that many or more rejections.

NEVER reply to agents who passes on your work to tell them that they are missing out or making a mistake. I’ve been shocked to see what some agents post about responses they have received to rejections. Don’t do it.


2) Partial Request
Congratulations if you get a request for a partial! An agent is interested to read more of your work. Usually they want the requested chapters attached to an email. To help the agent stay organized, hit reply to the original email and send it that way.

From here you will either move on to the next step or they will pass on the story. If you are lucky, the agent will provide useful feedback on why he/she felt the need to pass.


3) Full Request
Congratulations! The agent likes what he/she has read and wants more.

The reading of full manuscripts takes longer than queries and partials. It can take months to hear back. It is acceptable to politely nudge an agent if they have had your manuscript for several months, unless their guidelines say it takes them longer to get around to reading it.

From here the agent could pass on the manuscript (if you’re lucky, you will receive helpful advice to improve your work), ask for and R&R (revise and resubmit), or offer representation.



Most people write multiple books before they receive their offer of representation from an agent. So keep going, do what you can to improve, and network with other writers. It’s a long, hard journey and you will be tempted to throw in the towel more than once. Don't give up.

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