A year ago this week I started querying my second manuscript. Let’s just say it didn’t go so hot. But then I must admit, I had NO CLUE what I was doing.
I found a couple of agents on-line and sent them a terrible query (now looking back on it). I had not yet found the lovely writing community of AgentQuery Connect or really settled in with my new amazing critique partners. Basically, as stated above, I was clueless.
Now, I am in a much different place. I have reliable writer friends who read my queries and tell me if they suck. I have incredible CPs who tell me when my plot’s not working and help me remedy it. These are all very important steps on the path to querying.
But what happens when the MS is finally finished and you’ve gotten the nod on your query? A whole new process begins – the actual act of querying.
In my own personal opinion, there is a definitive method to the querying process if you want to be successful.
I’ve heard from many writers (who are agented and/or published) about the ABC method, and after doing A LOT of research, I’m going to employ this process with my third manuscript.
Now, this process is not for the faint of heart. It requires a lot of work, but in the end could prove quite fruitful.
Here’s the approach…
1) Do your research
- Investigate agents and make sure they are looking for manuscripts in your genre.
- Look at their client list – do they rep. books similar to yours?
- Review their sales (usually available via Publishers Marketplace) – have they had success selling books in your genre in the previous year?
- Research agent wish lists (are they looking for thrillers or historical fiction?) – you can use this information to tailor your query directly to what the agent wants at the time.
AND MOST IMPORTANT – Follow the submission guidelines. The quickest way to get a rejection or “no response” is to send (or not send) materials the agent’s website specifically requests. I’ve ready many agent interviews, and hands down, the biggest pet peeve is people who don’t follow the submission guidelines – that and people who address their query “To Whom It May Concern.”
Consider your query to be a job interview on paper. Be polite and professional. This is someone you may end up working a lifetime with and you must make a good first impression.
2) Build your list
Here is where we get into the ABCs
- Pick your heavy hitters – the”A” agents with definitive sales numbers in your genre (note: these are usually the agents with a pretty heavy client list and the least likely to take on many new clients).
- The “B” agents – these have a smaller client list – but solid sales in your genre. I categorize these as the “up and comers.”
- The “C” agents – the newer agents who are perhaps just starting or have a small list and are actively looking to take on new authors
R.C. Lewis, a writer friend of mine, mapped out this approach nicely here – http://agentqueryconnect.com/index.php?/topic/11952-2013-writers-market-question/
3) Track your list
- Incorporate a spreadsheet approach to your querying (I use Excel but QueryTracker also provides tools for this)
- Make sure to list all the agents you have queried – the day sent, agent’s usual response time, any and all request dates (full or partial) and then final response. Keeping definitive notes helps you track the process and ensures you don’t double query an agent (which is usually a big “no-no”).
4) My own final thoughts
I’ve read from many authors that the best approach when sending out queries is to batch them into sets of 5-10 (mixing in some A, B & C agents). This way if you’re not getting any requests, you can go back and retool your query before approaching any more agents.
Be courteous at all times. Realize agents are incredibly busy and a “no” usually means “no.” Don’t hound agents in regards to rejections. Remember you may want to query them in the future with a new project and you NEVER want to burn a bridge.
And lastly, to all of those jumping into the query trenches with me in 2013, I wish you the best of luck. I’ve got my *fingers crossed* for each and every one of you.
Other important sources to check out regarding queries:
This is by no means a comprehensive approach to the process, only my own personal preference. Do you have other methods you incorporate when querying? If so, please tell me in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!