Querying – the fret-filled cover letter of the literary world. Across social media, aspiring authors scratch their heads as they realize they’re unprepared to market their books. I’ve heard complaints ranging from inability to self-brag to inconsistent format fears. Some get beaten down by #tenqueries and seek out #querywin. Others like the clear yes/no of the former. Unless you self-publish, queries are in your future. And this is a good thing.
I’ve said it time and again: authors need to market! We’re not just telling stories; we’re selling them. If you want money for your thoughts, they need to be worth buying, and the responsibility to prove that worth is on you. Of course, there’s some range to what agents like. It’s representative of your actual audience, so you aren’t going to get a request from every agent on the same query. Plus, you don’t want every agent. You want the one who’s right for you.
What does that even mean?
It means research. Treat finding an agent like picking a loan provider. Make sure it’s someone who’s not going to change the game on you last minute. Realize they’re going to edit and sell your work. Ask yourself – would I accept criticism from this person? If your answer is no, you might want to move on. If your answer is always no, you might want to just self-publish and never read the comments.
But what about when you’ve found an agent?
You’ve found an agent (or better yet a list of agents) that you trust / like. You’ve read their submission requirements. Spell checked and grammar checked your letter and sample. Panic ensues regardless. Remember these key things:
- Double check all name spellings, use of Ms. / Mr. / etc
- Make sure the email is formatted in the same text (especially important if you copy in your first 5 / 10 pages or first chapter)
- Review the submission guidelines, the agency wishlist, the agent’s wishlist on the agency site, the agent’s wishlist on their own site, the agent’s twitter #MSWL
I’m not an agent. I am, however, a querying author, so I scour the internet for agent’s complaints. Their top ones?
- No information / limited information on the book / audience
- Called by the wrong name
- No letter, just a sample
- Not a genre they represent
- Copy / pasting in email suggests non-agent specific letter
Make sure your mistakes aren’t one of these. You normally get only one shot per book at an agent. Don’t ruin it with silly mistakes.
Still panicking? I’d be a hypocrite if I told you not to – it’s a daunting task. However, you’ve got a community out their. Fellow authors are willing to help like we did at #prapit. It’s the beautiful thing about writing. We all love the craft, and if you do to, we’ll help where we can.
My donation to the cause?
On 12/7/2016, I will be sending out a tweet about my #queryfear and tool solution. Use quote-RT and tell me your #queryfear and how you cope. I’ll go through the bulk and pick at least 3 individuals for a free query critique author to author. That means the letter and the first ten pages! Free editing, free thoughts on audience – and if I’ve got an idea about agents for you, I’ll send you a short list.
Pretty sweet deal, right? But what if you don’t have Twitter?
Honestly, Twitter is a fantastic tool, so I’d suggest getting one; however, I’ll be posting a #giveaway update here with instructions to leave a comment outlining your #queryfear.
This is part of my #DecemberGiveaway, so sign up to my mail list for exclusive material and to find out about these giveaways and contests in advance!