Tuesday, March 26, 2013

All About the Query

If you want to go the trad pub route you're gonna want to sell your baby. No, not your human baby (makes shifty eyes), your WIP baby. And before your baby ever appears in print, on the shelves, or on the web you'll need to get the interest of an Agent. All of that to say: You must query.

And not just any query letter will do. You must stand out among the slush. And there's a lot of slush out there. Some Agents report getting upwards of 150 queries a day.

Since you're thinking about querying you probably already know that it's one of the most dreaded parts of the publishing journey. Tying to summarize your 80k words in three little paragraphs seems impossible. You might even feel like going off the deep end, like Darkwing Duck here:

Before you thrash your WIP with a cuppa joe, there is a TON of great advice on the interweb for aspiring writers.

Including general advice, formulas, and insightt into the query letter (including Query Mad Lib), by the brilliant author and former agent, Nathan Bransford.

Advice on Perfecting the Query by Lynette Labelle.

You can even find Examples of Successful Query Letters from GalleyCat.

Or even 6 Ways to Ruin your Query letter.

So now that you're educated on the purpose of the Query letter it's time to plan your approach. Rumor has it that most people give up too soon. I've read somewhere that Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe series said she queried 100 agents for each of her 9 WIP's before she got an agent on her 10th MS. That's more than 900 rejections.

Remember that post I did a while back about taking criticism? Could you have taken 900 rejections and kept on fighting? You better think long and hard about it because this industry is not for the faint of heart.

If you are ready to query your baby take the time to prepare your list of 100 Agents. You can use Twitter, Publishers Marketplace, or Query Tracker to find agents that rep your genre. Do yourself, and the busy Agents of the world, a favor - only query those Agents that actually rep your genre.

So you've finished polishing your WIP, writting a kick ass query letter, and researched a boatload of agents. Before you go charging into the breach, dear friends, hold on. Do. Not. Email your query letter to all 100 of your targets at once. Gmail will probably suspend your account and you'll miss the opportunity to revise and correct your letter throughout the process.

My goal is to query beginning next month.*gasps* I can't believe I said that out loud. *hyperventilates* Here are the steps I've taken to prepare my query for submission:

1. Let me CP's weigh in on the letter.
2. Let the freelance editor I hired review the letter.
3. Throw out my letter and start over.
4. Submit my pitch to contests on the web and use the feedback to improve my letter.
5. Submit my letter in a contest to win a query crit from an Agent.
6. Participated in an auction to win a query and first page crit from an Editor.
7. Post my query letter on WriteOnCon forums and use the feedback to improve my letter.
8. Let my CP's weigh in on the new version of the letter.
9. Let my CP's weigh in on Synopsis.
9. Enroll in a Writers Digest Query Webinar and use the feedback to improve my letter.
10. Enroll in a Litreactor class and perfect my letter and first pages.
11. Get membership to Publishers Marketplace to review current market activity.
12. Setup account with Query Tracker to manage my list of targeted agents.
13. Repeat steps 8 and 9.
14. Pass out from exhaustion like this:

Now, by no means do you have to take all of these steps before you query. Just don't jump into the query trenches too soon (and don't give up too soon).

What steps have you taken to prepare your query? What advice did you find helpful?

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