Hey everybody! Let me tell you, I have been struggling for the past week. I had what I thought was a virus, but around day 4, it took a drastic turn. Now I have acute bronchitis with exacerbated asthma issues! Yay!!! I’m on a ton of meds right now, and my lungs ache. Hopefully, I can put out a good coherent post. Today, I want to talk about entering the querying process and things to know when approaching said process. These tips are based off of my current experience and hopefully will be a useful framework.
Step One: Do Your Research
When I was preparing to query, I knew I wanted to get my hands on whatever resources were available for finding agents in the my subgenre, YA fantasy. I bought myself the Guide to Literary Agents 2019: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published from the Writers’ Market. This book is essentially a large index of reputable literary agents and agencies across the country. I went through every single page of this book and looked up the web addresses for any agency that mentioned representing young adult fiction. From there, I drew up a spreadsheet with all of the agents that I found with columns for the agency, any notes about what the agency had represented, specific agents, contact information, and most importantly, submission guidelines. Which brings me to my next point:
Step Two: Pay Attention To Submission Guidelines!
Some ridiculous percentage like 80% of submissions can be rejected due to a sheer lack of adhesion to the submission guidelines, including proofreading for proper grammar! Don’t get caught up in this! The best way to do this is by using the spreadsheet I mentioned above; there should be a submission guidelines tab or page for each agency, and you can transfer that information into your table. From my research, many of the submission packages for the literary agents I sent to consists of a query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript. But note: THIS IS BY NO MEANS THE AVERAGE. There is no usual submission package. There is pretty much no consistency, which is why you need to be vigilant. An agent can want anything from just a query letter, to a query letter and five pages, or a query letter, the first ten pages, a synopsis, your platform numbers, your website link, and a list of books similar to yours.
If that freaks you out, it’s okay! Take each piece one at a time, and trust me, it becomes a lot easier with practice.
Step Three: Choose Which Agents And How Many Agents To Submit To
I have read that the average number of queries one should submit at a time is between six and eight. You are by no means bound to that, but I find that it’s a good number to have a decent amount out there in the world, but not too many in case your query letter or manuscript isn’t getting good feedback or any requests. Whatever agents you choose are up to you. Every author is going to have their own criteria for how to select an agent, so I’m not going to touch on that particular part of the process.
Step Four: Polish Your Submission
Some notes for submitting to literary agents:
Your manuscript has to be completely finished before you start to query. Completely. Fully revised. Fully edited. No grammar mistakes. DO NOT QUERY WITHOUT THE MANUSCRIPT BEING DONE.
Have a professional look at your query letter. It is worth the small monetary investment to hire an editor to look over your query letter. I had two different professionals look at mine in order to make it the best it could possibly be. Your query letter gets you in the door before your first few pages are even read. Make your first impression as a writer your very best. Personalize each query to the specific agent you’re querying to. Their name should be correctly spelled in your greeting, and you should note the reason you’re submitting to them specifically.
Make sure all your manuscript pages are formatted the way you want them before submission. Sometimes pasting the text into the body of an email can make the formatting wonky, including changing any italics or bolding. Read it through thoroughly.
Synopses are tricky. They take a lot of time to write and require one to learn how to summarize an entire book succinctly and with enough detail to convey your story effectively. promise to write an article on writing them later.
Double check all your submissions before you send them! Make sure you have the right email address and the right materials. Make sure your query letter has the correct agent’s name. Double check your grammar, spelling, and syntax. Reading everything over a couple times will never hurt. Remember, best foot forward!
Step Five: Be Patient
Be patient. Literary agents can take a long time to get back to you. I would suggest going to each agency’s website and seeing if they have a submission timeline of when you should be hearing back from a given agent. I put this information in my spreadsheet and in my calendar so I have a general idea of who I should be hearing from when. It makes me less frantic and antsy. Then just sit back and wait. Work on another project. Write something new. Work on building your platform as a writer. Keeping busy is a good way to keep from thinking too much about your outstanding queries.
I hope everyone enjoyed today’s guide to the querying process. Comment below about your querying journey!