How Do I Query?
Submitting to literary agents and publishing houses is intimidating. You are putting your writing out there to be judged by professionals. Creating a great pitch and writing a short synopsis of an entire novel is difficult.
First let’s talk about who to send your query to.
Who do I Send My Query to?
You want to start by researching agents, publishers, and editors, so you don’t waste your precious writing time on querying the wrong people.
A few good places to start are Query Tracker, Manuscript Wishlist, and Twitter. Yes, Twitter. Many agents and editors are on social media.
I do suggest QT and MSWL as they have detailed information about what is being accepted and how to query them. On both sites, you can narrow your search by genre, which is exactly what you want to do. You don’t want to be querying someone who is looking for crime novels and yours is science fiction.
What do I include in my query letter?
First, you want to personalize each query to the specific agent/editor. Not only address the letter to the person, but also mention why you chose them. Do they represent someone who writes in the same genre, or a specific book yours is similar to? If you were referred, mention it in this first portion.
Second, write a short teaser about your novel. Include the basic premise and theme, but also add a tagline at the end you think would be good to go on the cover. Your choice of a catchy tagline will show your personality as well as the manuscript’s tone.
Third, the editor/agent wants to know a little about you. So, create a short paragraph about you as an author and as a person. Have you been published before? Short stories and self-publishing both count. Maybe include where you write and how long you have been writing. Keep this personal section light.
Lastly, tell the person you are querying what genre(s), your novel falls into and who you want to be your target audience. Add some comparable published novels (comps) to this section. Agents and editors love comps.
What should I avoid in my query?
Avoid form-letter greetings. If you address it to ‘Dear editor/agent,’ they will know you haven’t done any research on them, haven’t taken the time to research who works at the agency/publisher, and are querying en masse.
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