Top Ten Querying Tips

Photo credit: Bethan on Flickr
So it occurred to me that it's been a while—a long while since I've posted about querying, probably because querying has been far from my mind as of late and also I have a ton of posts about querying. But! Querying is still very much a very important part of the traditional publishing process, and as I've been reading plenty of queries for work, I realized there's no time like the present to talk about it on the blog again.

So here we go. Top ten querying tips, many of which have existing blog posts to expand upon. Enjoy!

  1. Do your research! I really can't emphasize enough how important research is before you start querying. Your query letter may be absolutely incredible, but if you send it to someone who is closed to queries, or who doesn't represent your genre, it's not going to get read. Furthermore, you want to make sure the agent you're querying is someone you genuinely would want to work with—so do your best to try to get a feel for what the agent is like before you start sending out query letters. (Bonus: here's a vlog on query research.)

  2. Follow submission guidelines. This is so important! Not following submission guidelines is a really easy way to get rejected. Don't send page 30-35 of your book if the submission guidelines ask for the first five pages. Don't use attachments if the submission guidelines tell you not to. Follow directions and you are much more likely to leave a good impression.

  3. Stick to one page. This is the expected format, and considering how many queries agents and editors see every day (that is to say, a TON), you can probably easily understand why. Furthermore, if you can't keep your query to a page, agents and editors may get the impression that you're overly wordy and don't know how to make cuts in your manuscript, either. Which is not in your favor.

  4. The book is the most important. While it's great to know if you have some sort of credentials for your particular book, the focus and bulk of your query should absolutely be on the story. Trust me when I say you don't need three paragraphs about yourself—the story is what agents and editors need to know about the most. (Bonus: here are five things you don't need in your query.)

  5. Use details. This is the number one problem I see in queries and pitches alike—the summary is so general that it sounds like a hundred other books. When writing your query, make sure to include details that are specific to your book. What sets your book apart from others like it? How is this story uniquely geared to your book? What makes yours different? In an industry where thousands of pitches pass across agent and editor desks every year, this is absolutely vital. (Link in title of this point shares tips for writing details in queries.)

  6. Book comps are your friend. I've actually really come to love book comps and use them even now when I pitch a story idea to my agent—or before that, when I'm brainstorming an idea to start with. Book comps are great because they show you know the market, they give an idea of where your book would fit on the shelf, and they show there's a potential audience for your book. For tips on choosing book comps, check out the link at the beginning of this point.

  7. Get your query critiqued. This is a frequently overlooked step, but I think it's really, really helpful. I highly recommend getting your query critiqued by both your critique partners, who have read your book, and by writers who haven't read your manuscript. Their combined feedback will help you determine whether the query fits your book and whether it's intruiguing on it's own without being confusing to those who haven't read your book.

  8. Keep track of your submissions. This is a very helpful organizational step that will ensure you don't send the same query to the same agent, or you don't accidentally send simultaneous submissions to two agents at the same agency. I highly recommend QueryTracker for this purpose.

  9. Pitch contests are cool too. There are pitch contests semi-frequently on Twitter, that are both really exciting and fun and also can be a great opportunity to get requests from agents. I actually found my agent through a blog contest, so I know first hand that these can sometimes be effective. :)

  10. Find distractions. Once you've started querying, I highly recommend you find something to distract you. If you're able to write while querying, working on a new project can be great, but if not, now's a good time to catch up on your TBR pile, or spend time with family, or watch a couple movies you've been wanting to see, etc. Just find something to keep your mind busy. (Bonus: here's a vlog on how to survive the query wars.)

What tips would you add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Getting ready to query? @Ava_Jae shares her top 10 query tips + lots of linked resources. (Click to tweet)

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