10 Tips for Querying Agents

Studying_Scott_AckermanBy Cecilia Lewis

In the last few weeks, I’ve posted tips for writing a query letter and links and resources for queries. So, now that you’ve written (and revised!) your query, how do you handle the query process? Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Follow submission guidelines

I know I always mention following guidelines in my submission series posts, but it’s important! Every agent/agency will have their own preferences, and you should make the necessary tweaks to your query every time you submit it. Most agents list their guidelines very clearly on their website; they’re not hard to find. For many agents, not following them is a sign of carelessness or lack of research and equals an automatic rejection.

  1. Don’t mass email

Do not submit your query to multiple agents in the same email. Agents want to see that you’ve done your research and selected them for a reason. You shouldn’t query exclusively (see #3), but you should send each agent an individual, personalized email (see #5).

  1. Don’t query exclusively

Don’t send your query to only one agent at a time. Querying always takes longer than you think it will. Agents are busy, and they have tons of manuscripts to read. Don’t waste your time waiting on just one agent to get back to you. Send individual query letters to multiple agents at once.

  1. Research carefully

Make sure that an agent is legitimate before you query, and make sure that they represent your genre and are someone you’d like to work with. You don’t want to waste time by querying someone who doesn’t even rep your genre, and you definitely don’t want to work with someone who isn’t legitimate. Fortunately, there are lots of great online resources you can use to research agents. Publisher’s Marketplace is a great place to start, of course, but also check out Agent Query and Query Tracker. And to make sure that an agent/editor/publisher is legitimate, check out Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors.

  1. Personalize your query

Let the agent know you’ve done your research by including personalized details in your query. Always address the query to the agent by name. And if you have a specific reason for querying them (like, “I saw on Publisher’s Marketplace that you represent X” or even “I read your blog”), then be sure to mention it. Let them know why they’d be a perfect fit for you and your work.

  1. Have your MS ready before you query

Do not query an unfinished manuscript, and do not query a manuscript that hasn’t been revised. When you query, it should be because your manuscript is finished and polished and as good as it can be, and you’re ready to take the next step. You never know when an agent is going to send you a request to see your MS, and you’ll want to have it ready! Also, keep in mind that some agents ask for additional submission materials—like a synopsis—if they like the initial query, so make sure you have that ready too, even if you may not need it.

  1. Keep track of your submissions

When querying so many agents, it can be hard to keep track of who has your submission, who’s responded, and who hasn’t been queried yet. Have a method to keep track of all of your submissions. Query Tracker provides an easy way to track queries. Personally, I also used a detailed spreadsheet, where I kept track of all my research, made an ordered list of agents, wrote dates when queries were sent and responses arrived, etc. It was incredibly valuable to have this information all in one place, and I referred to it constantly during the process.

  1. Don’t pitch multiple projects in one query

Make sure that you focus on one project at a time. If you have multiple finished manuscripts, that’s fantastic! But you should only query one of these projects at a time. There will be time to pitch your additional projects later, once the agent is interested in this manuscript. And I can say from experience that even if an agent isn’t interested in one project, they might offer to look at more of your work!

  1. Don’t query multiple agents at the same agency

In general, it’s a good idea to only query one agent from each agency. If you’ve done your research, you should be able to select the agent who’s the best fit for your manuscript. There are exceptions to this (the agency I signed with, for example, will allow you to submit to multiple agents, but only one at a time), so be sure to check the submission guidelines. But, in general, you should plan on only one query per agency.

  1. Consider feedback carefully, and don’t be discouraged by rejection

When you get a rejection from an agent with personalized feedback, it may seem discouraging, but it shouldn’t be! Getting a personalized rejection is actually a sign that you’re doing something right. Consider any feedback that you’re given carefully and remember that most writers don’t receive any feedback from agents at all.

And don’t be discouraged if you get an impersonal rejection, either. A rejection isn’t always a reflection of the manuscript’s quality; sometimes a work just isn’t the right fit for that agent. Keep sending out your work until you find the perfect home for it, keep revising based on feedback you receive, and start working on your next project!

What do you think? Are there any querying tips I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

Want a professional evaluation of your query? Check out my query critique service. Looking for other editorial services? Check out my Services page for more information about working with me.

This post is part of my Submission Tips series. For information about submitting to publishing houses, literary agencies, and more, check out the other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts!

Related Links:

-10 Tips for Writing a Query Letter

-The Querying Process 101: Links and Resources

-Query Letters 101: Links and Resources

-5 Steps for Researching Literary Agents


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