Querying 101: Everything you need to snag a literary agent

Yup, I am back in the querying trenches again. It’s simultaneously the best and worst place to be as an author.

Best: the prospect of getting one step closer to your dream of a published book

Worst: checking your email every 18.3 seconds and the constant ball of anxiety in the pit of your stomach

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Before we dig in too deep, let’s quickly define what I am talking about.

Querying is the process of reaching out to agents and convincing them to represent you and your work.

For my friends and family who are curious about the process and for first-time authors who aren’t sure what to do next… It can be overwhelming, complicated and downright intimidating. Luckily, I’ve been through the process once already, and boy, did I learn a lot.

So in an effort to share those lessons learned, I’ve decided to kick off another blog series on everything you need to know about querying… And querying successfully.

Before we begin, check out these twelve steps to securing an agent for the gist of the process itself. 

Now we’ll dig into what you need to get started… besides a novel.

NOTE: Do not begin querying until your novel is finished, polished and ready to go. The successful next step is for an agent request to read your complete novel. And if you don’t have one… Well, you get my point.

Query Letter

Think of this as your cover letter.

One page – consisting of your novel’s blurb, a short bio, and personalization to each agent – that either convinces him/her to read your sample or goes straight into the deleted folder.

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Synopsis

A 1-2 page play-by-play of your novel where you give an overview of your main characters, the plot and the conflict. Yes, you also have to give away the ending.

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Writing Sample

Some agents ask for your first 3 pages, some agents ask for 3 chapters. But the gist is that your opening needs to flawlessly portray your voice, conflict, writing style, and leave them begging for more.

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A few other tips and tricks:

  • Check each agent’s submission page very carefully.
  • Follow the rules!
  • Be VERY careful when copying-and-pasting.
  • Make sure your word count is appropriate for your specific genre.
  • Double check your formatting: one inch margins, twelve point font, no Comic Sans.
  • Never offer an exclusive submission off the bat.
  • Take advantage of great tools like QueryTracker and Publisher’s Marketplace.
  • Submit a small number (less than ten) queries to start.
  • Paste all your materials into the body of the email – No attachments!
  • Be confident, but not cocky. Specific but not too detailed.

 

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I feel like I sound very doom & gloom-y… I tried to make it better with the GIFs of hot men. In all seriousness… Yes, querying is a grueling process, but there’s no reason to be alarmed!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing individual blog posts on how to make the most out of each of these required submission pieces, query strategy and next steps to WOW your first choice agent!

Stay tuned for next week’s post: deconstructing the perfect query letter!

6 thoughts on “Querying 101: Everything you need to snag a literary agent

    • tauricox says:

      Totally agree! For me, the trick is to ensure you’re as prepared and confident in your submission materials as possible. Then it’s just lots of finger crossing, email checking and wine drinking while you wait!

      Like

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