Query Advice

So, most of you are aware that I wrote a Young Adult novel and am actively querying it to literary agents. I worked for years on my manuscript, worshopped it, paid for critiques, had trusted friends give me notes, started over, revised, killed darlings, filled out chapters and poured all that I am into this book.

I’d like to pass along one tidbit of information to you, my fellow writers, about querying. First off, let me confess, I was a nervous wreck about writing my own query. I tried one hundred and fifty-six times to condense my work into a few short paragraphs. A skill that takes a keen eye and precision. Neither of which I possess when it comes to my own work. I have helped at least fifteen friends do this with their novels and memoirs, but simply haven’t transferred the ability magically to my own work. It’s so aggravating. That being said, I did finally write a query, I thought it was good and when I thought I’d written the best book I could ever write, and after I had an editor go through my manuscript and correct my poor comma usage, typos and grammar I began the process of sending my work out into the world.

I created an excel spreadsheet. The header has: date submitted, agent, agency, agency website, email address, submission guidelines, response date, notes. Next I researched the agents. I saw who represented books I love, books my friends wrote, I went to the SCBWI website and checked into their list of agents, I get Publishers Marketplace, I clicked on agent reviews, querytracker, I read agency websites, paid attention to submission guidelines, found interviews and read them, I did everything I could think of and then some to build the list of agents to query. I want to find someone who will love my book and be my advocate.

What I didn’t understand, and what I hope to spare you from, is like everything else having to do with writing, it takes revision before your work is ready. There is a learning curve with query letters, even if you think you’re a smarty pants. And man-oh-man did I smash my face against it. I admit my Rookie Error in an earlier post, where I quote an agent who reviewed my book at an SCBWI event telling the other agent how much she liked the mother daughter relationship. But guess what, that agent didn’t ask for my book, and so all the agents I sent that what I thought pertinent information actually thought was, “Ms. G passed. I will too.” Don’t do that people. Don’t tell an agent another agent liked an aspect of your work. They don’t care unless that agent wants your book and then let the war start.

I studied my query, I read other queries, I got new perspective on my work and then I REVISED MY QUERY, over and over before submitting the query to other agents.

Now here is where my bit of advice come is. When you create your dream list of agents, my suggestion is…..

DON’T SEND YOUR QUERY TO THE TOP FIVE FIRST. Make your mistakes and learn but don’t push away a potential  agent with silly mistakes. Get your sea legs. Figure out what works best for you and your story and then go for it!

Hope to see you all on a bookshelf soon!

11 thoughts on “Query Advice

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  1. Really good advice, Holly. I’m at the same point you are with the submission process. I’ve had pretty good luck with agents wanting to see my MS, but no real takers. However, the feedback has been invaluable. I am doing some re-writing based on that now, then will do another round of querying. I wish anyone who is going through this too all the luck in the world.

  2. Thanks for sharing your trials and tribulations. I’m trying hard not to get ahead of myself but the minute I start thinking about writing that first query letter I get queasy.

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