Pub Writes

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Life in Agenting – 2: Querying: Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Caitie F on February 17, 2015

Everyone always seems to have the most questions about queries: how to write one, what needs to be in it  Instead of just saying this is how you write a query, I want to share some of the do’s and don’ts when querying me.

Some background – I have read and replied to over 600 queries since opening up to them a month ago (EDIT: This was an estimate, I just looked and it was over 1,000). That is a lot of queries and that is all outside of work hours. If you query me, you will most likely get a response late at night or on the weekend. Those queries are what inspired this post.

DO include a great hook
What is your book? What makes it great? Figure it out, write a sentence, and make that the first thing I read. A great hook instantly has me excited and hoping that the rest of the query is amazing. I have requested pages when the hook is amazing and the rest of the query is good.

DO write a clear summary
So often, I read the main part of the query and have no idea what the book is about. I couldn’t tell you who the main character is, what the central plot is, or even sometimes the genre!

DO have someone unfamiliar with your book read your summary
That is how you make sure that it is clear. Find someone you know who doesn’t know your book or a community online that you can get someone to read your query. Have them explain back to you what your book is about. You will be able to tell if it is clear.

DON’T tell me your life story
There are so many queries I get that have more about the writer than the book. If you are writing fiction, just a couple sentences are enough. I tend to skim the long bios and probably miss the information that might matter. There needs to be a bigger bio for nonfiction, but some people list every paper they have ever been on and all their media exposure. I just need the highlights!

DON’T be a jerk
I know, it should be obvious, but I have gotten many queries with racism, sexism, and classism. I have also gotten responses to rejections that call me a bitch or say I am going to hell. The only response you should ever send is “Thank you for your time”. But you don’t have to send that.

DO your research
At least to the point where you know I am the right person to send something to. I still get lots of books I don’t represent and those are the easiest to reject. But I hate that everyone’s time was wasted.

DON’T agonize over that personalized paragraph
If you don’t have a personalized paragraph, it won’t keep me from requesting pages if the query is great. That said, those personalizations sometimes turn a maybe request pages to a yes.Not because the person said they follow me on twitter or read my blog, but because they saw I love x book, TV show, or movie and their book is like that is y way. Or they change their comps (accurately!) to things I love. Don’t say your book is like something just because i love it though – I need to see that while I am reading the query

DO query one project at a time
Only one project per query and only one query at a time. If I get four queries in a row from you, I probably won’t take any of them as seriously. I am probably not the right person for all the books. It is fine to be querying multiple projects at once, just end the one you think is the best fit first, then wait a little until you send the second.

DON’T be scared
I want every query I get to be amazing. I want to fall in love with your pitch. I want to want to see pages. I do this because I love working with authors.

DO keep going if I reject you
I am often not the right person for the project. You want someone who loves what you are doing to represent you. I am one person and there are a lot of agents out there.

Good luck!


3 Responses to “Life in Agenting – 2: Querying: Do’s and Don’ts”

  1. Reblogged this on Rad/Dom and commented:
    A nice list of “do’s & don’ts” for querying!

  2. […] Life in Agenting – 2: Querying: Do’s and Don’ts ( […]

  3. paulaacton said

    I wish I had caught up with my emails before I submitted my manuscript to a publisher as I really struggled with the query letter part but I will certainly be using this for guidance next time and maybe practise those query letters up front fir next time

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