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Q is for Query Letters (Some Simple Rules)

October 23, 2012

So you’ve got that work as close to perfection as you can get it and it’s time to query. There are some simple things you can do to make your query-letter process less difficult that it has to be.

  1. Find agents that represent your genre. The odds of winning Powerball are 1 in 175,223,510. The odds of getting published when you send your query to agents who don’t represent your genre are significantly worse. There are a number of great places to look for reputable agents. The most well-known is the Writers Market, a comprehensive list of agents and publishers. If you get the deluxe edition, you get a one-years subscription to, an updated, searchable list of resources. The 2013 version of Writers Market has just been released.
  2. After you’ve narrowed down your list, Google them and see what they’ve published online. Many agents have blogs, and sometimes they’re pretty clear about how to approach them and how not to approach them. Rachelle Gardner’s page on queries, for instance, includes tips like not asking her to click a link.
  3. Figure out how to write an appropriate query letter. The Internet is filled with guides for writing effective query letters. The Agent Query version looks like it’s been neglected for a while, but is detailed and includes a lot of examples. Nathan Bransford isn’t an agent any more, but his query letter primer is great and links you to lots of other successful information.
  4. Personalize the query letter. I was surprised in researching this post about the number of agents who say things like Never address the query letter to whom it is concerned. Apparently, people do this, or agents wouldn’t need to say it. Agents are looking to work for you in a relationship. The relationship has to work for them, though. If you start out by calling them whom, when multiple resources gave you their name, they’ll move on to someone who projects as a little easier to work with. Also, if you followed step 2, put that information to work for you. Include something that indicates you read their website. It doesn’t have to be Hey Rachelle Gardner, I didn’t include any links, just like you said. Sometimes, subtle is better.
  5. Make sure your work is ready. This is actually step one, but I figured when you started you were so amped at the prospect of taking the next step, you’d have ignored it. Do a sanity check. Are you really ready? Is there someone else you trust who thinks you’re really ready?

If so, go for it.

(Also, there’s this little shindig we’re putting on next month in Lake Mary, where a few agents might be attending. Just so you know.)

One Comment
  1. October 23, 2012 12:06 pm

    So, don’t think you could have timed this better than to post it after the conference when some of us are dreading having to write that pesky query because some agents actually asked us to do so! I’m going to go to your links (!) and read like a mad woman. Then again, I’m considering winging it because following the rules in the past hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Have to admit I’m a bit biased right now because I just watched Neil Gaiman’s 20 minute Keynote speech to a 2012 graduating class ( ) and I’m inspired to think outside the box!

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