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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Querying Agents

Since many of my writer friends are at the agent querying stage I wanted to share some tips that helped me not only land an agent, but find the right one. The first and most important thing you must do it make sure your work is the very best it can be. Don't submit after writing only one draft. My rule of thumb is four edits. I do a mini-edit right away because I hand write everything first then do a little edit as I put it into the computer. Then when the entire manuscript is done I do a read through edit on the computer. After that I print it out and take a red pen to it. I put all my edits in the computer, then do another read through edit. After my workshop in Tulsa I've decided I'll be adding a fifth edit where I read it aloud to myself (you'll be amazed at what you catch!).

Once the editing is finished you need to decide who you're going to submit to. Treat this as carefully as you would the selection of a job you plan to retire from. You need to be able to work with your agent well on all levels. Look at how they communicate. Are they on Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace? Do they blog? If they don't have a strong web presence chances are they won't keep in contact by e-mailing you. If that's fine by you then they might be a good fit. However, if you're like me and practically live online, you want someone else that does too.

DON'T mass query. By that I mean, don't mail the same query to several agents at one time, within the same e-mail with a general 'to whom it may concern' or 'dear agent' opening. That will get you auto rejection from them 9 1/2 out of 10. They're people and they want to be treated as people and individuals. Research them and make the query letter personal to a degree so they know you're submitting to them specifically for a reason. Check around agent websites. Some post successful query letters. Agent Kristin Nelson does this. http://pubrants.blogspot.com/

If you've researched the agent you're submitting to the next part will be easy. Make sure you follow their submission guidelines! If you don't many of them will auto reject you. They have far too many queries to worry about the people who can't follow guidelines.

Probably the most important piece of advice I can give you is, learn to take rejection in stride. Don't get mad, don't demand to know why, don't ever get snippy with them (all of New York will know if you do. Agents talk to each other!), and don't get discouraged. These are tough times and there are a lot of good writers out there trying to find an agent.

Another great piece of advice I picked up from NY Times bestselling thriller writer James Rollins is this: Send out ten queries at a time. When you get one rejection, send out another query to another agent. Do this every time you get a rejection. That way you'll always have ten prospects out at a time. This helps keep your spirits up. I'd add to that, if you get a request from more than one agent for a partial or your full manuscript, let them know who else is looking at the partial or full. It doesn't really matter if other queries are out, only if other partials or fulls are out. It's common courtesy because now they're really considering you and giving you their time. Be considerate of them and the relationship will get off to a much better start.

Keep writing while you wait to hear back, it will help keep you sane. Check out these articles by Writer's Digest on submitting: http://writersdigest.com/article/10-submission-tips-for-querying-an-agent/
and the basics of a query letter: http://writersdigest.com/article/basics-of-a-solid-3-paragraph-query/

12 comments:

  1. Really great advice, Heather. I'm going to return to this blog and read it as I go through my querying process -- just to remind myself there's a method to this madness and we all benefit from understanding that!

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  2. Thanks Linda! I'm glad I could help. Though I didn't realize how long winded this entry was until I posted it! :)

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  3. This is awesome advice (and so timely for me)!

    Thanks for the tips and encouragement :-)

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  4. Thanks for the great tips! I just started to send query letters to agents and of course these tips will help.

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  5. Wow, sounds like perfect timing for both of you Fida & Portia. Excellent! I love it when I'm in tune with my followers and don't even know it. Best of luck ladies!

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  6. Okay, I'm feeling a little better. I try and keep at least five queries in the air at one time. Every time I go 'forever' without hearing anything (good or bad) I start to wish for even a rejection just so I know SOMETHING. Then when I get said rejection I mourn. Then I get all head-up, rework my query hop back on the horse.

    Thanks for putting this up! It always ALWAYS helps when someone agented (with or without a book published) tells us hopefuls that you just have to keep slogging.

    Oh, and you're so in the cool kid club for writing longhand! I write everything longhand and then put it into the computer. It sounds like you write in sections, transcribing as you go. For me, I reread and tweak as I write and then do my first overhaul when I transcribe the entire thing. Then I read through it on the computer two or three times, giving myself breaks in between. Then I send it to my bro-inlaw beta reader.

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  7. You write in longhand too! I am not alone! We rock. As for the querying process, been there, twice. It's actually easier the second time around. The first time I sent out over 35 queries before I landed an agent. Problem was, it was the wrong agent, the wrong book, and the wrong time. I learned the hard way. But now I'm very blessed to have a wonderful agent!

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  8. Great advice, Heather! I'm sure I'll refer to it again and again!

    Jule

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  9. Thanks Jule, I'm glad it helped!

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  10. Thanks Heather. Great advice! I have to admit I am a little afraid of starting this whole process, but I guess that's one more fear to conquer.

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  11. Its hard the first time. You're putting your blood, sweat, and tears out there, baring your soul for the world to judge. Wait, that's probably not helping! :) Seriously though, the good news is, it get's a lot easier with each step you take. And there are plenty of writers like me who've been there and can help you through the process. Very best of luck!

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  12. Hi Heather - I followed your link from YALitChat. I love the look of your Blog! And I hand write a lot of my key scenes - I love filling up my note books :)
    Naomi

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