So, I made a writer friend today. Yes. In real life. She’s a published author who hasn’t needed an agent yet in her career but is considering heading out into the query world in order to sign with one and I couldn’t be more excited. I. Love. Queries…Especially when they are not my own.
Maybe I should insert a quick definition of a query here for those that may not be familiar: “A query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a resume. It’s not rambling saga of your life as an aspiring writer. It’s not a friendly, “Hey, what’s up, buddy. I’m the next John Grisham. Got the next best selling thriller for ya,” kind of letter. And for the love of god, it is NOT more than one-page. Trust us on this.” This quote comes from AgentQuery.com. If you click on that link you can read the whole article about query letters. Anyway, back to my new writer friend. After a short chat I knew right away that I wanted to give her all the resources I used in my query journey to eventually sign with my awesome agent, Marlene Stringer of StringerLit. When I got home I began wildly typing in all the sites I’d used countless times while querying and ended up with so many open tabs. I didn’t know my browser could HAVE that many tabs open.Then I realized…..
It was time for a new blog post!!
Disclaimer- in no way do I claim that this is an exhaustive list of helpful query sites, they are just the ones I have a lot of positive personal experience with. Query Shark– I love this site. It was one of my first forays into what a query even is and gives sooooo much helpful information. The blog is written by literary agent Janet Reid. She posts queries (with the permission of the writers that submitted them) and gives thoughts and advice to help improve the queries. She follows the queriers through revisions and helps polish that query till it’s shiny and perfect. Her instruction is AMAZING. My best advice is to start here if you are preparing to query. When I say start, I mean literally start at the beginning. Take the time to read ALL of the archives. Not only are they informative but also entertaining. If you think “but my book is different- I can’t fit into this query format” I promise you’ll find a query with your same issues in the “chum bucket.”
AgentQuery Connect- So you’ve read through QueryShark and have a pretty new query you want to get feedback on? AgentQuery Connect is THE place. Okay, not the only place but there are some really helpful and experienced people on this site (including ME, haha). There are TONS of resources on this site so take your time to look through them all and if you feel extra adventurous, post your query for feedback. Just be aware that you will get LOTS of opinions and it will be up to you to decided what to do with them. Sometimes it is hard to get feedback on your first post but don’t freak out. Just get involved in helping out other AQC’ers and you’ll get it back in spades. PS- this is also a wonderful site to find beta-readers and critique partners that are serious about giving feedback but clear some time to return the favor!
QueryTracker– Once you are ready to hop onto that roller coaster ride called the “query train” then head on over to QueryTracker. You’ll want to set aside a good chunk of time to really figure out this website. It’s *that* important. Here you can search through agents that have interest in your genre. I advise reading the websites for EVERY SINGLE AGENT you are interested in. What every agent wants submitted with your query is different. Doing your research now can really really pay off. Their websites are usually linked in the Overview page. There are also “Quick Links” on the Overview page for each agent. These link up to sites like Publishers Weekly, Predators and Editors etc that give you independent information about the agent. It’s also helpful to read the “comments” section for the agents you are interested in to see how long of a wait you are in for, how often and what type of rejection you can expect (if it comes to that). If you find an agent you are interested in then add him/her to your “query list.” This helpful list lets you keep track of the agents you want to query and that you have queried. It’s also a great place to record responses from agents and gives you a lovely (and sometimes depressing) pie chart to show you how successful your query is. I lived and died by this website. Without it I would’ve been flying blind and probably done that super embarrassing thing of double querying the same agent.
Twitter #mswl & #tenqueries- If you are not on twitter yet, this is a good time to get an account. There’s so much good stuff for writers going on over there. Besides awesome pitch contests (which I’ll cover later) there are several awesome agents super active on there and they use some hashtags to help queriers like us. First hashtag I follow is #tenqueries. #tenqueries is a hashtag used by agents as they go through their slush pile for the day (week..or whatever). In a tweet they give feedback on the queries that cross their desk and say if they requested or rejected the query. It is all done anonymously and is so very helpful even if you aren’t querying these particular agents.
Another helpful hashtag is #mswl which stands for “manuscript wish list.” This hash tag is used by agents to share what they are dying to see in their mailboxes. Wouldn’t it be awesome if one of their “must haves” resembles your MS? There are a few websites that keep record of these wish lists but I’m just going to link one: http://mswishlist.com
Contests: There are many many query contests out there. Some are very very involved, others are simple twitter pitch contests held periodically like #pitmad (which we just passed) or #pitchmas in December or #pitchmadness in March. There are many many more out there. For these contests you need a 140 character twitter pitch for your book which would include space for the contest hashtag and your genre. I’ve had lots of luck with these contests and know several writers that found their agent from them. Even if you don’t participate, it’s always helpful to read the tweets and think about what the “pitch” for your book would be.
There are plenty of contests NOT on twitter including contest sponsored by bloggers and other authors. I can’t even come close to listing them all but as Halloween is on the horizon I thought I’d share the next one I’ve heard about: Nightmare on Query Street . Here is a contest schedule for 2014-2015 from Brenda Drake’s website. Some people LOVE these contests and have found dream agents as a result. I’ve only participated in one but found that for me I preferred the traditional method of querying. To each his own! Check them out and see if contests might be your thing.
Well- that’s it. I know there are many many more resources out there for querying but in my particular journey to publication, these were the sites I found invaluable. If you have other favorites, please link them in the comments section! Good luck with your query process and if you’d like to chat further, don’t hesitate to contact me via email. Now go! You have a lot of reading to do!!