Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Nuts and Bolts of Getting Ready to Query

On today's Writer's Wednesday, I wanted to talk to you about the nuts and bolts of getting ready to submit to agents.  As many of us have learned first hand, you do yourself a disservice if you're not 100% prepared.  I know, you've written the perfect, unique novel, proofed it once or twice, and your neighbor's kid loves it.  No -- you're still not ready.
Here are some things you'll want to do BEFORE you send that first query e-mail (and this assumes you've fully proofed your novel, sent it through a round of critiques, and written a bang-up query):

1.  RESEARCH:  Find out which agents actually want your genre (see our Industry Terms page if you need help with this).  Follow the agents on twitter, follow their blogs, or at the very least read their bio on the agency web page.  Why take the time to personalize a query and hit send if the agent isn't looking for what you wrote?

 2.  ORGANIZE: I found the easiest way to organize my research was by creating a chart in a word processing document (or Excel if you have this knowledge).  I had categories for agent name, agency name, what they're looking for, submission guidelines, submission date, response/date.  Having the agency name is important because many agencies only allow you to submit to one agent, but it's possible multiple agents within the agency represent the same genre.  You'll want to search to be sure you're not hitting up the same agency more than once.  Organization in the beginning will save you loads of time at the end.

3.  SYNOPSIS:  Have a 2-page, single-spaced synopsis ready to go.  You don't want to have the perfect query and not be able to promptly respond to a request for a synopsis.  Even though most agencies won't request a synopsis upfront, you need to have this ready anyway.   

That's my advice anyway.  Anyone else have other must-do tips you want to share when getting ready to query?


  1. I think you've pretty much covered all of the basics. Though I must add, load up on lots of chocolate and other junk food while you helplessly stare at your inbox. :)

  2. I've found querytracker indispensible. Seriously. Very worth the $20 just to be able to organize, see which agents are in the same agency, quickly check what they rep, find interviews ... the list is endless.

    Also: I've found different agents are looking for different things - some want a synopsis, some just want pages, some only want a one page query. So, I have a one-sentence, 1-paragraph and 2-paragraph summary of my story ready and mix and match to fit it to what the agent is looking for.

    Also: I agree with Pam. Lots of chocolate. :) And be prepared for it to take a long time.

  3. Great info. Many agents who want a synopsis just want a one pager, although some can want one between three to five pages. Do they do this just to drive us nuts?

  4. I've done the same thing, it's especially important for those agencies that say only query one agent.

  5. Oh. Great post. Need to work on a synops. sooon!

  6. Great advice! I think I may be querying first part of next year. *sigh* that sounds so far away, but I should be ready by then.
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover


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