Query time has arrived!
I am very excited about this post because it means I have begun querying my manuscript.This post is divided in two parts: the Query Preparations and the Query Letter. In the following months I will post an update on my query results.The Query Preparations Long before my manuscript was finished I was working towards my query goals. In October 2012, I attended a writers conference and pitched my book for the first time (read more about that day here). By the end of that conference I had met with two agents who were interested in receiving my query once the manuscript was finished.This year I attended two additional conferences in May and July and met five more fantastic agents. I added their names to my agent dream board – really a dream spreadsheet - for a total of seven agents that had requested my manuscript.In the last months I also compiled a “cold query” list. I researched potential agents in Publishers Marketplace and Writer’s Digest, read their bios and reviewed their client list. I was looking for agents interested in representing young adult fantasy. In all, I added about 30 potential “cold query” agents to my list.I also received advice from other authors about their query process. The very talented YA author, Romily Bernard shared her color-coded agent spreadsheet with me. I was so thankful she did. Her gift helped me visualize my goals even before I was ready to accomplish them.Check out the spreadsheet blank template here. I hope that it will inspire you as you get ready to do your own query.Agent Query SpreadsheetThe Query LetterIt took me over twenty drafts to arrive at the version of the query letter that I sent out. Even after I had copy edited every grammatical mistake and typo and thought it was polished, I forgot to remove a note I had made to myself towards the bottom of the letter before I hit send. I ended up sending six letters with a note that said, “(or include authors/ readers the agent represents.).” The lesson here: do not send your query letters after you have been up all night finishing your manuscript and are so anxious your stomach feels like a Circus du Soleil contortionist. Instead walk away and take a second look later or have someone read over your shoulder before you hit send.Now that we got that out of the way, here is the structure that I followed for my query letter. This structure was a suggestion from one of the agents I had the pleasure of meeting during a conference. I kept the word count at an average of 480 words.1) Paragraph #1 – Greeting.2) Paragraph #2 – I mentioned the circumstances in which I met the agent and if he/she requested my manuscript.3) Paragraph #3 to #5 – Three short paragraphs summarizing my story. It read like the copy of a book’s jacket and introduced agents to my heroine and the main plot questions.4) Paragraph #6 – A few sentences that provide important information about my manuscript like: the manuscript is finished, the word count, the genre, it is a trilogy, and that it is a debut novel.5) Paragraph #7 – A paragraph to briefly explain my world building, since I write fantasy.6) Paragraph #8 – A short paragraph to name a few of the books that are comparable with mine and who is my market audience. Also mentioned the potential for international sales.7) Paragraph #9 – One sentence to talk about myself. Yes, just one sentence.8) Paragraph #10 – A couple of sentences on why I’m querying this agent. Writer’s Digest has a fantastic list of “Successful Query Letters” including comments from the agents on why thy worked.When emailing my letters I have followed the advice I received from published authors and sent my query out only to a small group of agents. Why? Because if the query letter doesn’t garner attention, I will have to make adjustments before I send it to the next group of agents.On a final thought, no matter what stage of the writing process you are in, it is never too early to start preparing for your queries.Stay tuned for updates!Do you have any query letter tips you would like to share? Leave your comments below.