Querying 101 – Ten Tips and a Template
Finding the right literary agent for your manuscript requires a lot of homework. And then, once you've found someone with aligned interests, convincing them that your project is polished and marketable is another battle altogether. Therefore, if you want to work with the agent of your dreams, make sure you put in the time, effort, and research required to make your dream a reality. Remember, you only get one shot.
- A query letter should never exceed one page. Don’t get tricky with the margins. They’ll know.
- Follow submission guidelines. They differ from one place to the next. Also, make sure your work is going to an agent that accepts the genre you write in.
- If you’re going to add comparable titles, don’t compare yourself to the big guys. Choose two or three recent mid-list titles instead.
- Make sure the query letter is well written—no grammatical or spelling errors, no unnecessary hype.
- Don’t submit to more than one agent in the same agency.
- Don’t send the same query to a list of agents at the same time. Even a small amount of personalization can go a long way.
- Be professional. This is a business.
- Swap query-letter feedback with other writers in online forums. (Query Tracker is a good place to start). Anonymous strangers don’t always give the kindest feedback, and opinions vary, but workshopping your query can be very helpful.
- Don’t send the first query letter you write to hundreds of agents. Send it to five, wait a couple weeks, then rewrite your query and try five more. Rejections and silence are a good indicator that your query or opening pages could be further sharpened.
- Make sure your manuscript is the best it can be. Arrange feedback swaps with other writers, not friends and family. You should go through a few rounds of development and revision (at least) before you decide to start querying.
Check out our suggested query letter template:
Want some assistance with your query letter and synopsis? Check out our query-critique service.