Querying Agents

A 5-Part Series

  1. Querying Agents
  2. Finding Agents
  3. Query Letter Example #1
  4. Contacting Agents

So with Charlotte Gnoll done (kinda/sorta/almost), my attention has been flickering to what I do for publishing. To be fair, I’ve been thinking about publication since I finished the first iteration of in April 2013. All along, my goal has been to self publish.

But like all goals dreamed of in the land of lollipops and unicorns, impending reality rips them to shreds. I’ve soured on the idea of submitting to Kindle Scout. I’ve also begun to realize just how much work marketing by myself will be. What better way than to see if I can hit the jackpot and let someone take care of everything for me? (Not that that’s how it works, but a boy can dream.)

So while I wait on my editor and twiddle my thumbs with the “will I or won’t I” shenanigans of self publishing, I thought I’d submit to a few agents for the hell of it. I now reference lollipops, unicorns, and ugly reality once more. One does not simply walk into Mordor or submit to agents. Both require skill, luck, and no small dose of hairy feet.

There’s a lot you need before querying an agent, but here are the big three:

  • a finished manuscript. Unless you’re shopping a memoir or a business/academic-related book, that fiction masterpiece of yours best be finished. Why? There’s a lot of people writing a lot of shit fiction. There need to be a few hoops to jump through.
  • conviction. If you don’t like your book, why should someone else?
  • a Query Letter.

Was is das? If you’ve applied to a job, you know exactly what a query letter is – it’s a cover letter for your book. From what I’ve seen so far, the major components of a query letter as thus:

  • your ms’s genre
  • your ms’s word count
  • a not overwrought plot description
  • some level of personal entreaty to the agent
  • a semblance of professionalism
  • your contact info

My suggestion is to stop reading and write your query letter right now. Without diving into the thousands upon thousands of queries that are out there, try your hand unsullied and unbiased.

Done? (Liar.) Below are three websites I visited once I had my first rough draft complete. The latter two are invaluable due to being run by agents themselves offering honest and positive feedback regarding queries received.

Examples

This is just a list of 23 query letters that resulted in representation. Given this page is found via adweek, I’m going to assume the page might be 404’d in the next year or so. Thus I culled the list from 23 down to 7. I’ve kept the original numbering scheme for clarity’s sake.

Query Shark

The end all to be all of query letter advice sites. I wish I had stumbled upon this site before I sent my first batch of queries out. Just go. Read the rules and follow them. And leeeeaaarrrrrrn.

Pub Rants

Kristen Nelson (of Nelson Literary Agency where the blog is hosted), writes an honest and incredibly positive blog that dives into her work as a book agent. Often her posts include suggestions about what worked and what didn’t in query letters she’s received.

You can see my first batch query letter and the responses it generated here [link yet to be generated].

There you have it. Now get to work.

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