Updated: Feb 25, 2020
(I'm offering to send you my query letter--both versions--for free if you're interested. Get it here.)
A few years ago, when I decided to query agents for my novel, I didn’t know what to expect. I focused on learning everything I could about the process, especially formatting the letter and researching agents. Preparation (including spreadsheets) was key for me. But somehow, in all my Googling, I missed the part about how writing a query was considered hard. Very hard. Like, flaming circle of hell kind of hard.
And it is good that I didn’t have those expectations in my head because it would have slowed me down. I would have done what I always do and proceeded to overthink each step in the process. Instead, I jumped right in because there wasn’t another way around it. I didn’t even get another pair of eyes on my query (a recommendation I would never make to others). I’m a writer and an English professor, after all. I was confident that I could write a short query for my project, and revise along the way if needed.
My results were more than I ever expected. Not only did I get an offer of representation in three weeks, I had over 50% positive responses (asking for full or partial manuscripts) according to my Query Tracker stats.
The query worked! I cracked the code to getting interest in my novel. And when I signed with my agent, I was confident that I would have a book deal in weeks.
Spoiler alert: it has been three years and I do not have a book deal. My agent is great and I know many first books don’t sell. I haven’t wanted to share my experience because I don’t have the book deal. Yet. I have viewed my experience as failure, which I see now as ridiculous.
I learned so much. And I have so much to share. What if I helped others who are about to query? Sharing my story is the first step.
My experience taught me several things. I learned that getting an agent isn’t always the hardest part (though I know so many others would kill to be in my shoes). I learned that having a solid query is only one piece of the puzzle; the manuscript also has to live up to the promises the query makes. I learned everyone’s experience is wildly different.
And I learned that I like queries. I like writing them and I like editing them. (Especially compared to the Works Cited pages and annotated bibliographies I grade in my day job).
If you are out in the query trenches, you aren’t alone. There is a large writing community on Twitter (and other social media sites, I assume). And there are so many resources out there. You likely know these query-related sites, but I’m sharing them anyway because I want you to feel as prepared as I felt before jumping in.
Query Tracker: to find out about agent response times, keep track of submissions, etc.
Publisher’s Marketplace: costs a bit of money for a subscription, but I learned so much about the agents I was querying
Writer Writer Pants on Fire by Mindy McGinnis: I still devour query and submission stories from other writers. Every experience is so different.
By the time you read this post, who knows where I’ll be in the process, possibly even preparing to query again. I hope you’ll reach out if you ever have questions. We need more stories in the world--we need your story--and I'd love to help. Sometimes it helps to have a friend who will let you vent.
I'm sharing my query letter (both versions) if you're interested. Sign up to get it delivered directly to your inbox: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/5e54fa3dc9b50f0026cbc5d5