When I was in my teens and early twenties, I queried many publishing houses about several manuscripts. Traditional publishers no longer accept queries from authors. To pursue traditional publication, writers need an agent.
So, I’m querying agents for a manuscript that isn’t part of the Dragon’s Fire Series. And I’m learning stuff along the way. Disclaimer: nothing in my posts is a guarantee that you will land an agent.
The quintessential idea I’ve discovered is to keep your query short. Most sites I’ve read recommend one page or less. I say less. Much less. Three or four paragraphs, at most. Agents are busy. You're part of a massive slush pile. They won't spend five minutes reading your query looking for the good parts. So make each paragraph count. Pitch your book. Offer a SHORT and relevant bio of yourself. Include anything else they've asked for. Close. Write your query so they can read it in about 30 seconds.
Don't waste space with excessive niceties. "Thank you for taking the time to read my query today..." "I'm sending you my manuscript because I'm looking for an agent..." Agents know you're looking for an agent. Your query on their desk is their first clue. Cut straight to the key points and convince them they want to read your book. Be polite, but don't waste words.
Your query is a business proposal. Keep it professional. Agents aren't interested in the book's backstory or how dear the story is to your heart. They're looking for material they can sell. Don't kill your chances with a "why I love my book" paragraph unless they’ve asked for one. If they ask, focus on how what you love about your book will make readers love your book, too.
Query one book at a time. Don’t offer the agent a smorgasbord of the sixteen manuscripts on your hard drive and expect them to pick. Query one specific title.
Don't expect to send off 100 queries a day. Each one will take time, energy, and careful attention to detail. It's best not to have your book in the slush pile at dozens of agencies, anyway. If one signs you, you'll have too many people to contact saying, "Never mind about my query..."
Maintain a steady querying pace, focusing on quality over quantity.
Preparing the first query is the hardest part. I needed several hours to fine-tune my pitch and my bio, choose an agency and an agent, and assemble my submission package. The next queries went much faster. Each agent wants something slightly different, but the bulk of your material can be pasted and tweaked. Follow submission guidelines and send each agent what they ask to see.
Wondering how to sum up your amazing story in a few short sentences? Start by identifying your protagonist. Share the inciting incident—what starts your story? Tell the main character’s goal and reveal what the conflict is.
For example, a short pitch for Dragon’s Fire might read: Princess Ciara of Caledon is named the Guardian of the Dragon’s Fire by the mysterious Mystic Order, but she has no clue what the Dragon’s Fire is or how to find it. Ciara’s search for the Dragon’s Fire brings unexpected powers into play, and she discovers that her most dangerous enemies are those she thought were her friends.
That’s an abbreviated version of what appears on the back cover of the book. Your pitch should equate to a back cover copy that entices readers to open your novel. Start with those four key points—main character, inciting incident, goal, conflict—and then polish your pitch.
Next time: what to include in your biography and how to handle feedback.
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