As I was organizing my queries this week, it occurred to me that others might benefit from some of my research. This merely scratches the surface, but if you’re just starting out on that part of your writing journey, consider this a fast pass as to your next steps and some of the better and more reliable resources for taking them.
Don’t skip this step in your hurry to get published. Yes, you’ve finished your novel and it feels wonderful and you want to share it with the world immediately, but it is not ready yet. If you haven’t been working with them already, find a critique partner or some beta readers. It’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can find.
While you’re waiting to hear back from your beta readers, research literary agents and start compiling a list of those you might like to work with. Pay attention to what genres and the average word count of works they’ve represented in the past; you don’t want to waste your time pestering an agent with your 65k YA Contemporary if they’re only interested in 90k Epic Fantasies.
Check these websites to help build your agent list:
- querytracker.net (I highly recommend this one. It’s a one-stop shop for all your query questions!)
Once your manuscript is really and truly ready, the next step would be to query literary agents to represent it. Query letters are their own special kind of beast, and you’ll want to research them on top of potential agents. Study successful examples, find out what each agent you’re querying likes to see in a query, and write & revise as carefully as you did with your manuscript.
If you join the forum on querytracker.net, there are all kinds of lovely people in the same boat who would be happy to give feedback to your query letter, and you can provide feedback for others.
Write a Synopsis
Some people find it helpful to do this before the query letter, some find it easier to use the query as the jumping off point for the synopsis. The synopsis boils down to a brief (aim for 3 pages at most, but every agent’s preference will be difference) summary of your story, detailing the major plot points and how the characters deal with them. Again, research. I haven’t seen a lot of agents ask for this with the query letter, but it is very possible that if they like your query, they will ask to see a synopsis, so you want to make sure yours is as polished & professional as possible.
Before You Hit Send!
Every agent is going to have different requirements for any additional materials they might accept. Most will ask for 5-10 pages pasted (NOT attached) into your query email, but there are some who might allow for a bit more, and some who may want not want to see any pages unless requested. I have an Excel spreadsheet charting each of the agents from my query list, what materials they want in addition to the query letter, how they want those materials formatted, and any other pertinent information so my letter isn’t thrown out because of a small oversight.
Additional websites I’ve found helpful for query, agent, or publishing advice: