Writing a book is amazing. Sure, there are ups and downs as with anything worth doing, but once it’s done? Brilliant. You did it.
If you want to be traditionally published, that means you get to write some more.
Querying can be really, really, really tough.
Queries are an art form unto themselves. What follows is my opinion, and like all opinions, can be discarded like absolute garbage if you don’t like it.
But I wanna help you, so here are some of my trash opinions.
Do you have a supportive group of writer friends? Real life friends are cool too, but you may want to reach out and find other writers in the querying trenches. Find a safe space (DMS! SLACK! EMAILS!) where you can commiserate privately about the ups and downs of finding representation.
These are your people! Love them! Give them support! Scream at them about how amazing their book is and LISTEN when they scream at you!
Hang on to that positivity, because rejection is just part of this process, my dudes. You’re gonna want some cheerleaders.
Research query-writing. Queries, like I said before, are their own special beast. Ya gotta learn how to tame it.
My advice? Go to Query Shark <https://queryshark.blogspot.com/> and read, and read, and read some more.
Take notes on what stands out, per her expert advice on what to do and what NOT to do.
There are a LOT of posts out there telling you the basic form and format of a query letter, so I’m not gonna sit here and scream at you about that. Because it’s boring.
I mean, it’s important, obviously, because following directions is everything at this point in your quest to get an agent.
But you can get that ish elsewhere.
Write the dang query.
Sit your tush down and poop it out. Yup, I said it. (And yes, this is my writing mantra at large, in case you’re wondering how weird I am. I’m THAT weird.)
It’s gonna be hard. THIS IS YOUR BRILLIANT OPUS! Condensing it into 300-400 words and three paragraphs that INCLUDE your bio?!
This is where you figure out what makes your manuscript tick. Where you boil it down to its essence and make a delicious bone broth of words, rich and filling and healthful. Well, maybe not the last one.
And guess what? If this task seems impossible every time you sit down? You may have issues in your manuscript. (Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m sorry.)
Congratulations! You wrote the thing!
Do you like it? Eh? What’s that? Not really?
Alright. Well, you’ve got the bones of your story! Now we just need to finish up this broth. (You guessed it, I found a metaphor and I’m going to cling to it.)
Agents are busy af. For real. Their job is Not Easy. They are jacks of all trades, and they don’t have tons of time.
If your query letter doesn’t GRAB them and make them excited to read, they’re not gonna read. It’s not personal, either. They have to be PASSIONATE about this new project. They’re going to be looking at it for months and months and months and reading it and editing it and selling it.
You WANT them to FALL in LOVE.
Take it from me, a romance writer– making someone fall in love ain’t easy.
“Then how do I do it, Brittany? How?” You ask, eyes raking my website.
Easy there, killer, don’t look at my blog like that.
YOU USE VOICE.
You’ve written your query letter. It’s got all the parts, and it works. But it feels meh, most likely. This is where you start to finesse.
You don’t have a lot of space for nonsense. But you do have room for voice. It’s that ineffable hard to pin down quality about your MS that makes your readers sit up and flip the pages. Now you’ve got to inject it into your query.
No, do NOT write your query in first person from your character’s POV… that’s weird. BUT you do need to infuse that voice in the query.
Think descriptive verbs. A couple simple sentences that highlight the character’s personality tossed in for effect.
Make that voice SHINE through, even though it’s short form AND in 3rd person. You wrote a book. You can do it.
To me, this is what is going to get the attention of an agent and get page requests. I’ve seen it work.
Remember your cheerleaders you abducted to make read your stuff, I mean, cheer you on? Get them to check your query.
While you’re getting opinions on your query, RESEARCH AGENTS.
Twitter is great, yeah, yeah, I love it. BUT do not tie all your hopes and dreams up in #mswl. It’s a great tool, but it’s not the only tool.
Query Tracker is free and easy to use and a great way to see who’s open, what form they like to receive queries, how they like to be addressed in an email, and what genres they represent. Start there.
(Once your deciding between offers, you MAY want to hang out on publishers marketplace and look up how many/how much your agent choices have sold in your genre. But that’s a different post.)
Organize your information. I wanted to query a ton of agents. Bigger the pool, better the odds and all that.
I hate Excel. (Don’t @me, paperclip lovers.)
But I used a spreadsheet. Here’s a little of what this looked like:
I updated it as I went, color coding agents who had what materials, blue for partial, green for full, yellow for waiting, gray for rejection, gold for offer. It also helped me remember how long I’d been waiting to hear from someone.
Once you’ve compiled a list— go to each agent’s website. Double check that the information is accurate.
Send those suckers out. Your cheerleaders have given you the greenlight. Your query SINGS! Get in those trenches and do it.
The only way in, in this case, is through.
Now triple check those queries, and the emails, and the salutation…
and send ’em.
Wait. Update spreadsheet. Send more queries. Get virtual hugs from your cheerleaders.
You got this.