How I Query

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I was told perhaps I should talk a bit about my querying process, since I’m going through it right now.

The majority of my querying has been done as the result of contests, but I do also own a copy of the 2013 Children’s Writer & Illustrator’s Market to hunt for agents. When I started to prep for the process, I went through the book and picked a handful of agents.  I made up a spreadsheet where I added the agency name, agent I was planning on querying, their email address and website. I added cells for what they wanted in a query (how many pages, email or snail mail, etc.) and cells for when I sent the query and when I got a reply. Finally I added a space for comments.

I’ve used this spreadsheet for all the agents who requested pages from the Pitch Madness contest.  I’ve found it really handy to have all my information in one place. I can check to see who I’m still waiting to hear back from and the comments lets me see if my rejections are saying the same kinds of things and perhaps it’s an issue for me to look into before sending the next round out.

Also very important is to check on the agency website and agentquery.com to make sure that agency is still accepting Young Adult submissions. Even though my Market book is from this year, I have already found several who are no longer looking for YA. I add them to my spreadsheet so I won’t accidentally query another agent from that agency. No point in wasting all our time, right?

Once I have my grouping of agents I’m going to query, I start making up my letters.  The majority of it will be the same for each agent, but I always add in something about why I’m choosing that particular agent or agency whether they’ve published other authors who write similar books or that I admire, or if it’s because I follow the agent on Twitter and am responding to a call they put out, etc.  It takes time, but it’s important to personalize the letters.

Before hitting the send button, I double check name spelling (both the agency and the agent!), make sure the part of my story that is included is copied into the body and that the formatting is correct.  If they ask for an attachment (this typically only happens after they’ve gotten your query and ask for a partial or full) then I double check that I’ve given them the amount they asked for in the right version of Word or a PDF, etc.

I send them all out, mark my spreadsheet and sit back and wait…and wait….and wait.  Of course I could be prepping more letters during that wait period, but normally I’m too busy working on other things.

That’s my basic process. Any questions?  Is your process similar? Any hints on how to improve upon it?

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6 responses »

  1. Pingback: “Do’s and Don’ts for Query Letters” ~ by Stephanie Haefner | Authors Helping Authors Resource Site

  2. Pingback: Pitch-tastic! | Suddenly they all died. The end.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I was a little curious about your process because the thought of sending out so many queries to so many agents was a little overwhelming to me. I really like how you keep it organized–spreadsheets are my thing too! It’s also good to know about checking again on what types of books they’re looking for.
    I have a similar process for requesting reviews or guest posts to bloggers, but I think there’s more pressure when submitting a pitch to an agent than requesting a guest post spot.
    How many queries do you send at once? And how long do you think is reasonable to wait to hear back? It seems like most people wouldn’t have time to respond to every query they receive.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with this! Good luck!

    • I’ve only sent about 10 out so far (most due to requests from a contest) I think you’re supposed to let about 6 weeks go by…I’m still waiting back on two from quite some time ago…BUT I had one of the others I sent out at the same time come back last week so I’ll probably give it a little longer.

      • I’ve only submitted short stories for magazines before, so I’m a little unfamiliar with the process for books and agents. I think I got a response back from all of the ones I contacted, but it did take a few weeks, I think the longest wait was 3 months.
        I was able to attend an event last week about the publishing process and querying agents with a speaker/host who was a literary agent, but it’s good to have a perspective from a fellow writer going through the experience.

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