Now, you might be wondering: um…what's left? Surprisingly–a LOT.
First: You need to know who to send your query to. And no–YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BLANKET THE ENTIRE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY WITH YOUR QUERY, NO MATTER HOW FABULOUSLY WRITTEN IT MAY BE!!!!!!
I KNOW researching agents is boring and complicated and time consuming. But you HAVE to do it.
Why? Respect for agent's time, for one thing. Saves yourself a lot of unnecessary heartache and rejection for another. But mainly: the agent-client relationship is an important and complicated part of your career. You need to find someone who not only loves your project, but someone you can really work with, and in order to do that you need to know as much about the agent as possible. Plus, a lot of agencies only want you to query one agent at their office (I know my agency is particularly big on that) so how else are you supposed to decide who you should send your query to?
You have to do your research. And two of the best resources I've found are:
It's also well worth the time to do a good, old-fashioned Google search. Check the agent's website. Their blog, if they have one. Their Facebook or Twitter feed. Any online interviews they've given. I know it can feel stalkerish, but they wouldn't put it out there if they didn't want you to connect with them. And it's amazing how much you can learn.
I'm also a HUGE proponent of Writer's Conferences. I know they're expensive, so they might not be an option for you. But if you can, they are definitely an investment worth making. And if you can't afford a conference–not to sound like shameless self promotion here–but the WriteOnCon website is quickly becoming an incredible resource:
And we add more to it every month.
Another bonus to doing all this research? It gives you something you can put in your query to personalize it for the agent. Something to let them know you queried them because you're really interested in working with them and think you would be a good fit for each other. Not because you started at “A” and are working your way through “Z” or because they're a mega superstar and the only agent you've heard of. Remember, this is your career. Put the time in and do it right.
Which brings me to my next point: getting help with your query.
I would have been lost without the Query Workshop I took–LOST I tell you!
I'm sure there are lots of them out there, but the one I swear by is run by the lovely and talented C.J. Redwine. Trust me on this when I say it was–hands down–the best $55 I've ever spent. I believe in it so much, it has a blurb from me on the site. It's a 2 week course and seriously, it's amazing. Go THERE. Check it out. And if you can, take the class. You will not regret it.
For those who can't afford an online workshop, there are some wonderful online query resources, like KT Literary's “Ask Daphne” About my Query Feature, Query Shark, and Elana Johnson's From The Query To The Call ebook (now free!). But one of my absolute favorites is the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment, run by my friend Matthew Rush.
Not only does he post and analyze a ton of Successful Queries (and yes Matt, I do realize I owe you mine. Someday!) He also humbly shares his own Querying Mistakes so everyone can learn from them, and has a regular Query Critique Feature, where real queries get posted and analyzed to make them better. If you're not following his blog, you need to be.
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