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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Query Wars

I'm back in the trenches battling to land a new agent and things are different this time. Why? For one, I didn't bring a knife to a gun fight this time. In fact, not only am I wearing my armor~see Slaying a Titan ~I'm armed with a weapon that is not only polished to a high shine, but is top of the line. And I know how to break through the defenses.

Querying is a battle where only the best are left standing. Anyone who's been at it for a while or has done it and been successful knows that it is one of the hardest challenges an aspiring author faces. So how can I have such a positive outlook? Read on and I shall share my secrets with you.

First you must write the best possible book you can, then you have to make it even better. Hone your skills until that novel is absolutely top of the line, not just good enough. Then write a great query letter. The second part is often harder than the first for some mysterious reason, yet many people rush through that part as if it isn't important. You should put just as much thought and hard work into your query as you did your novel. Send it to your critique partners. Make sure it gets across the heart of your novel. It is what gets your foot in the door. Take the time to make it excellent.

Query in waves. Send out eight to ten queries to agents that you have carefully screened to make sure they represent the type of novel you've written. Wait for responses. If you don't get a single request for material it might not be your novel, it might be your query letter. If that is the case take another look at your query letter and revise it. Don't stop at ten, twenty, or even thirty. Keep revising, keep improving, and keep going. Many successful authors have stories about the ridiculous amount of queries it took them to find the right agent. It comes down to, the right query letter to the right agent. Don't give up!

15 comments:

  1. Heather, your advice is right on, especially considering you went through it before. Anyone who's been there and back has valued experience. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thanks Karen, I'm glad it was helpful! The good news about having been there is that it does get easier. The bad news is that finding an agent doesn't mean you won't have to do it again!

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  3. This is good advice Heather. Especially about querying in waves and tweaking your query if you don't get any requests.

    But the most important advice you give is making sure that your novel is the best it can be before starting the querying process. The worst mistake a writer can make is querying TOO early.

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  4. Great point Karen S., querying too early can be disastrous. It's easier to query your best work first than it is to go back and re-query something you have re-written!

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  5. This is excellent advice and basically describes the approach I have taken. I think what frustrates so many going through the process is the part you can't control. How an agent will respond. It only takes one, but finding that one who says, "YES, I love this!" is in most ways out of your control. You can do all of the above and still not have success. Or at least have it take a long time to reach someone your work speaks to...

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  6. Thanks Martina! I'm definitely going to try my best!

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  7. Unfortunately that's true Elizabeth. Finding The One can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. But with preperation we can at least whittle down the size of the stack and have a better chance of finding the right one faster.

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  8. I wish you luck in the QUERY WARS. So far Darth Agent has blown me out of the water every time.

    Tweaking your query -- say that 3 time fast -- is good advice. But you may be rejected for reasons completely apart from the quality of your query letter :
    1) The agent just sold a novel just like yours.

    2) The agent no longer cares to handle the genre even though her bio says otherwise.

    3) The market has changed, and your tale is old hat.

    4) The agent's plate is full and would only sign you on if you were Stephen King or J K Rowling.

    All of which is beyond your and my ability to foresee or control. I wanna cry now. But manly men only sulk. LOL.

    Lots of good fortune, Roland

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  9. Ah Roland, as much as I hate to agree with you, that's so true. It's only getting tougher. That's why we have to be the best we can be. We must keep improving and keep trying! No sulking aloud! A little bit of crying every now and then is okay though. ;-)

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  10. Thank you for the advice, and good luck catching the right agent for your book : )

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  11. Thanks Kari! I'll take all the good luck I can get! In fact, I'm collecting it... You're right, it's all about the RIGHT agent. ;-)

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  12. Good Luck, Heather!!! I hope you get lots of requests and find the perfect match.

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  13. I love your writerly confidence tempered by a realistic understanding of the business. Polish your weapon, slay the titan. Inspiring post.

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  14. Thanks James! I glad you liked it.

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