Querying for Novices

I am in the beginning stages of querying my manuscript and it is proving to be quite a task. Every writer is different but staying organized and focused are two things I have found to help my process.

Here are five more things to think about:

Do Your Research

Before you start sending out that query letter and marvelous manuscript, research publishers and agents that seem like they would be a good fit. It doesn’t make sense to send along your hard work to someone who only represents mysteries when you have written a romance. Sometimes literary agents are open to different kinds genres but you need to be sure of that before bombarding their in-box with your masterpiece. Querytracker.net is a great place to find agents and publishers.

Make a List of Publishers and Literary Agents

This is a way to keep yourself organized. Start by sending your query letter to your C list first; these are publishers and agents that might be a good choice but are not exactly what you are looking for, maybe they are a hybrid publisher and you are looking for a more traditional publisher.

Your B list has literary agents and publishers that you would be thrilled to work with, but maybe they are not as well known or perhaps they are missing one or two things you are looking for in representation.

The final list is your A top-notch list. These are your dream agents and publishers, perhaps part of the Big 4, but maybe not. If you get a few bites from your B and C list, send along your manuscript to someone on your A list. You never know what might happen!

And just a tip for you, no one needs to know about your list! It is based on personal preference and who you feel would best represent you. Nothing more!

And hey, at this point in my game, I would be happy if my dog could be my agent and publish my book!

Be Sure Your Manuscript is Ready

Ok, so I made this mistake once. I wrote my manuscript and it was perfect; every word seemed to flow, the grammar was flawless, there were no plot holes, the characters evolved…NOT! I was overly excited to start the querying process and I sent out my manuscript before it was ready for someone else’s eyes. (I’ve never received such polite rejections.) Before sending anything out: read it, reread it, edit, edit again, revise, revamp, read it again…whatever! Just make sure it’s truly as awesome as you keep telling yourself. Finding good beta readers can help you determine where you stand with your manuscript.

Another tip, make sure you have a solid query letter, synopsis and one or two sentence pitch prepared in addition to your manuscript. Agents will not always ask for the same thing, so having all of these ready beforehand can save you a headache. When an agent requires one or all of these pieces, you can just pull them up to tweak and personalize as needed.

Keep writing

Don’t sit around waiting for responses to your query. Keep your mind busy by focusing on other projects. Start a new manuscript, focus on your blog or go write a list of ideas to explore. It may be weeks or months before you hear back from an agent. Worrying and analyzing your query isn’t going to get faster results, so do yourself a favor and start something fresh.

Take Workshops and Connect with Other Writers

If your locality has a professional writers group, I highly recommend joining it. I am a member of the James River Writers‘ and I have found a wealth of information including workshops, lectures, contests, master classes and so much more all at my fingertips. Recently I took a query letters class with M.M. Finck, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned. I even got some personal advice on one of my query letters!

Social media is also a great place to get in touch with writers if you know where to look. I found Jane Friedman on Twitter and jumped at the chance to take one of her Master Classes. It was very informative and honest, leaving me feeling more confident and knowledgeable about what to expect during the querying process.

However, be careful with social media because for every writer out there to lift you up, there’s another one waiting to bring you down.

I’m here to lift you up. Happy querying!


Published by manfrejl

I am a graduate of the University of Mary Washington where I received a degree in Studio Art and a Masters Degree in diverse student populations. I hail from Virginia and am a member of the James River Writers. When I am not writing or teaching art, you can find me photographing various things.

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