Today I bring you a few quick tips on writing and sending out queries. This isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing how-to post. Rather, this is me looking at some of the things sitting in my inbox, shaking my head, and plopping down in front of my keyboard to throw out some key points.
- Follow submission guidelines. I’ve said it before and I will no doubt have to say it again. Go to the website of the agency you’re interested in submitting to and READ THE GUIDELINES. Then follow them. Do not follow guidelines on some aggregator site that is “helpfully” providing information for multiple agencies. Chances are they have at least some of them wrong.
- Make the bulk of your query about your book. If you’re writing fiction, this means your very short story synopsis/blurb about the story should take up the most real estate in your query letter. Probably one or two paragraphs. Yes, feel free to include something about you — any publishing history or whatever. But remember that the purpose of the query is to get someone to ask to read the manuscript. So talk about the story. I see more query letters with two paragraphs about how the author has self-published the book and had twelve sales, while only including two sentences about the story…. Don’t do that. Sell me on the story. Everything else is icing.
- Query more than one person at a time. Be clear that you are doing so. Then let agents with your query/material know if someone has offered you representation. In other words, don’t waste anyone’s time — yours or the agent’s. Nothing makes me sadder than an email checking on the status of a submission that’s been in my box for two months, which casually informs me that I (unbeknownst to me) have it exclusively. Except perhaps reading a project and getting excited about it, only to learn the author signed with another agent three weeks prior and never let me know the project was no longer available. Please communicate. It’s far better than the alternative.
Now, go forth and submit your little hearts out. Happy writing!
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