Tag Archives: agents

Another Query post

16 Apr

As promised I am brining you notes from the recent class I attended on query writing and what I learned was so different from what I had learned previously. I’m starting to think that query writing is a subjective thing and it will differ depending on who you talk to a lot of this stuff will be totally different than what was in my other post, but all this info came from a literacy agent, so it must be good.

 

First off let’s talk about word count.

I’d always read that the shorter the better and 250 words tends to be the maximum but according to the class, 250 should be the minim. You want your query to be no less than 250 but definitely no more than 700. Around 400-ish words is perfect according to Bree.

Agents don’t like opening and email, or letter, to see a huge 1000 word query. They must open hundreds of letters a day and seeing that, would be a real turn off. Also on the other hand, having one that is too short will only harm you because it’s near impossible to do you MS justice in so little space. Not impossible and I have seen it done, but extremely hard to do. If you can do it, and do it well, props, seriously I mean it major props, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being to minimalist.

Set yourself a word count starting at 250- and maxing out and 450 then go from there. If you keep it between that range, it’s perfect.

 

I probably should have mentioned this point first but appearance is very important.

How your query looks is a huge part to whether an agent reads it or not. They receive something in tiny, weird font and they aren’t even going to bother to try to read it. Remember a query is a business letter, it is the first impression that an agent is going to get of you, as a person and as a writer, so keep it professional.

Fonts should always be kept to something standard, and easy to read. Arial, Times, Calibri all make excellent choices. Usually the agent will mention in there submission criteria what they like so if they do, do exactly as they ask. They want Times at 12pt, do it. Who cares if you like it, they do and that’s the point. If nothing is stated always choose a sensible, easy to read font.

That being said font size is just as important, you don’t want it to small. The agent needs to be able to read it without straining their eyes. Making the font smaller, might allow you to fit it all on to one page, but other than that it will never help you cause. I suggest 10pt – 12pt you may be able to get away with 11pt in some fonts or bigger in other but as a rule of thumb stick to 12. You don’t won’t a comically huge font either, because though easy to read, it looks very unprofessional.

Spacing can also be important, though this might be out of your control if you send it in the body of an email. If possible space the query so it is easy to read (do you see a pattern here?)  Use paragraphs, 1.5 – double spacing and keep it neat. I personally like 1.5 though many agents prefer double. If it’s not specified in the submission criteria use personal preference though anything lower than 1.5 is much too low.

This point is only for post-in submissions, NEVER and I mean EVER hand write a submission. I don’t care if you are a master of penmanship, don’t do it. Always type it and print it. Hell even break out the old type writer and do it the old fashioned way but never hand write it. This falls under the readability point, as awesome as you are with a pen, it will always be easier to read typed, end of story.

Finally keep it professional, no pictures, no colours, no silly fonts. I mean it, professional people! Okay?

 

 

Next big point is Personalization.

General rule of thumb queries should be 3% personalized to the agent, 97% exactly the same as the last one you sent out. This is where the research I talked about in my last post comes in handy.

Always address it to the agent. Dear Mrs Doe, Dear Jane ect. Never address it generically. No To whom it may concerns, Dear Agency’s name, or the classic Dear Sir/Ma’am. No, just no okay? It is always better to address the person you are talking to so they know it’s not just a burst email/letter. At times an agency will say in there submissions that if unsure address it to the agency and an all agents will receive it. I would suggest against doing that. Yes, we all want an agent, but not every agent out there will be right for your book, be picky, even if it’s just a little bit because you will be trusting your work to this person, so you want to know they are right for it. Whenever possible query an agent, never an agency.

The reason I say query an agent is because you are going to want to start with one or two sentences as to why you want them as your agent. What made you query them? Writing, I queried you because I want an agent is not a good reason. They realise that since you are querying them, but why do you want to them as your agent. A good point here is not to brown nose, or try and be a kiss arse. It gives you as a writer, a negative image and people hate arse kissers.

Say things like:

I noticed you represented such and such’s (description of book), because of this I think you’ll also like my (description of MS), TITLE

Or

I read an article you wrote on something and it inspired me in some way to query you about TITLE.

This is where the research really pays off, so do it and you will  have no trouble with this little detail. Of course, don’t overdo this part, yes you have spent time e-stalking them but don’t come off that way. One or two sentences are all you need. Don’t spend paragraphs telling them why they are the perfect agents for you, because A) they don’t want to hear that and B) you have a word count to stick to remember.

Do not fake the personalization because they will know. Saying I saw you represented such and such, there for I think you will like my MS and having no cluse who such and such even is or what they write about, will only make you look bad. Because if it turns out you’re wrong and your MS is nothing like there’s, the agent will know and it will only serve to annoy them. Agents talk remember and you do not want to look like a liar.

 

Now down to Writing the query itself.

Here are some pointers on actually writing it.

First don’t sell yourself short; a query is a way for you as a writer to show an agent who you are. You write witty satire, show it! (Within reason, it is a professional letter after all) use your way with words to make a query that is unique to you and your story.

Spell check and edit! (My biggest nightmare!) Super important, make sure there is no mistakes, none, not even a little one. Read it, leave it a while and come back and read it again. Get someone else to check it, a couple of people even, make sure that baby is mistake free.

Focus on the project that you are pitching. One query per project.

The whole point of a query is to leave the agent wanting to more. Be specific but don’t give away the ending! Give all the necessary detail, but don’t give every character, every romance, and every disaster. Don’t try and fit everything that happens into the query. Pick out the main conflict, the main character and roll with it. The MC may have lots of drama going on but don’t tell them about it all. Give enough to hook them, that’s all you need.

Always include the first five pages, after your closing sign off, unless other amount is specified. The right agents will not reject you if you attach five pages and they said not to. If they liked it they will read on anyway. It will give them an idea of your style and voice which can be a good thing.

When sending out your query don’t email blast, do a hand full at a time and wait. That way if you found out that something needs to be changed you haven’t burned every bridge.

 

Some things Queries must have:

Personalized salutation

Personalized tidbit about agent

Title

Genre

Word count

Protagonist name

Description of protagonist

Setting

Inciting incident

Villain

Protagonist’s quest/purpose

Protagonist’s goal

Bio

Author’s credits (optional)

Your name

 

Query Recipe: (as written by Bree, I didn’t think I could sum it up any better than this)

* Keep in mind… Queries and synopses are two different things. Unless an agent specifically asks for a synopsis (which is not the norm) do not send one. Agents want an overview of Who, What, When, Why, and just a PART of the How.

Introduction:

Include word count, genre, and title. Show the agent you’ve researched them, that this isn’t an email blast.

Your book:

Things you’ll need to include in your description: Who is the main character and why are they special? Why are we reading about them? Why do we want to read about them? You don’t need to explicitly tell us this information, but you’ll want to introduce them in a way that gets us excited.

What is the plot? What happens in the novel and how is your main character involved? How does this affect what your main character wants and needs? How does it affect their emotions?

Make clear the central relationship in the novel.

Your bio:

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being a debut author…especially in fiction. If you don’t have writing credits, do not worry. We expect that the majority of querying writers are going to be debut. Just tell us a bit about yourself. Where you live, what you do for a living, and whether or not this is your first novel.

If you do have writing credits, list a few of your highest profile publications. Avoid listing out everything you have ever published ever! In fact don’t just “avoid it”…don’t do it!

Other important facts to include in your bio section:

1.    If you’ve had previous representation

2.    If the manuscript you’re querying has an offer on the table, and how much time we have before you need an answer

3.    If the manuscript you are querying has been submitted to editors at any point

Who YOU are is secondary to what your manuscript is about. We will eventually want to get to know you before signing you, but it’s important to hook us on your concept and not on yourself (unless you are writing nonfiction). You have a very finite amount of space to make us want to read your manuscript, so don’t blow it on personal information. ~ Bree Ogden

Another important thing is to know you genre.

Know the market, know who you want to market it to and be specific. Is it syfi, fantasy, romance, paranormal, adult, action, suspense, horror, the list goes on. There are hundreds, so if you not sure google is always your best friend. After you have classified the type state the age group. These are the standard age groups.

Picture book (ages 0-4)

Easy reader (ages 4-6)

Chapter book (ages 6-8)

Middle grade (ages 9-12)

Upper middle grade (ages 12-15)

Young adult (ages 14-18)

New adult (ages 19-29)

Adult (ages 30-up)

When classifying age group, you want to look at the age of your main character. They should always be within a few years of your target audience age. But keep in mind it’s not just about “age” but about the tone and the experience that the character is going.

 

Finally the best way to learn is by reading, look up successful queries online. Once you have finished writing it there are tons of sites where other writers will critique your query and give you advice on how to improve it, if it needs it.

There we go everything I could think of about writing a query all in one post. Keep in mind this is not an easy process, it’s a lot of work and very time consuming, but if you do it properly it will be worth it to see the finished results and start to get some requests rolling in!

 

Happy writing!

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Query writing part one: research and finding an agent

3 Apr

As promised here is the first part of what I have been learning. I’m taking an online class taught by the lovely Bree  Ogden, who is a literacy agent herself.

Most of the stuff in this first post will be stuff that you might already know, but if not here are some important steps on the way to querying.

 

  1. Polish!

Make sure you manuscript is complete, polished and free of errors. This might seem like a no brainer, but it’s essential. You don’t want to have an amazing story turned down by something technical.

 

  1. Research, do it.

Get a big cup of coffee get comfy and do it. This is an important step. Familiarize yourself with all aspect of the publishing process and get your info people. Do not test the waters until you know what you are getting into. Here is an awesome list of publishing terms, incase you are ever caught off guard…  http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/08/book-publishing-glossary.html

 

  1. Nail down your genre.

If you have already done this, good, but this means more than just fiction and nonfiction. Sub-genre is important it will help you determine what agents are right for your manuscript.

 

  1. Write query

I’ll go more into this in the next post, but for very basic tips you van check out my last post  http://justatasmanian.com/2013/12/11/writing-tip-number-four-query-writing/ it’s a start 😛

 

  1. Research agents.

Another super important step, know the agent you are going to be querying make sure they are a good fit for your manuscript. Make a list, try to have about a 100 or so agents. Make sure you this list can be simple just name and agency. Next research each one, look at twitter, blog, Company website, just to make absolutely sure that you are the agent are a good fit.  (below there will be a list of westies that will help you in this step) google will always be your best friend in research. This will narrow down you list.

Once you are sure that an agent is right for you, create another list, an excel sheet is probably going to be the neatest for this and keep details. How they like submissions, genre, preferred contact method and of course agency. Also include what you have sent them and what they have requested of you. Colour code it if that helps. Useful things to keep track of are: query sent, Partial requested, partial sent, full requested, full sent, Pass on partial, pass on full, haven’t received response, etc.

Don’t query too many agents at a single time, this is a burning all your bridges thing. Do it in lots of about 5-8, that way if you find out that you have something wrong in this first round you can fix it before sending it off to the next.

 

Useful websites

PublishersLunch.com

PublishersMarketplace.com

PublishersWeekly.com

Agency Websites

Twitter (use Twitter directories!)

WritersMarket.com

WritersDigest.com

GuidetoLiteraryAgents.com/blog

AgentQuery.com

AbsoluteWrite.com

Literaryrambles.com

All for today, more as I learn it people 😀

 

Happy writing!

 

shan

Writing Tip Number Four: Query Writing

11 Dec

Happy hump day bloggers!

I think I may have missed a few steps in the process but this is something I have been working on at the moment and though I would share what I have learnt.

First thing I learnt is that writing a query is hard! I mean really hard. I don’t know if everyone finds it this hard but it is killing me. I have written four or five different ones only to love then originally, then hate them when I re read it.  I saw this quote that says that if you can easily sum up your novel in a few sentences you are either a literary genius or you are not trying hard enough. Second thing I learnt is that you only get an average of few second to impress the agent before you novel get put on the rejection pile. A few seconds, that means that first line of the query has to be amazing! It has to be one of the best things you have ever written and it has to state the main point to your manuscript! That a big ask, but it’s not impossible. Third thing I learnt is that it must be kept short. Like I said you only get a few second, so make them count.  It’d best to try and keep you query to 250 words. Yep that’s right, you are a writer you are expected to sum up your entire manuscript into 250 words!  Again it sounds scary but it’s not impossible.  Though I have yet to have much luck in doing this I have read enough, wrote enough and seen enough to know how to do them.

I found this template on an advice site. I must say the person that posted this is a freaking genius and should be proud because they have done what many other have failed to do. Summed up a query simply.

Dear Agent’s Name:

I saw a recent interview in which you said you were looking for historical mysteries, so I hope you would consider representing my 85,000-word medieval mystery, The Awesomest Mystery Novel Ever. Bob the Protagonist is a guy with something really interesting about him. He thinks his life is one way, but SURPRISE HOOK! Suddenly he has to do Plot in order to achieve Goal, all without Conflict getting in the way. He traipses around Setting doing Plot, but doesn’t count on Complications. Ultimately he has to decide: give up Goal#1 or Goal#2?

I’m a member of some writing organization, won some contests, or neither of the above. If I have some relevant background which makes me good for writing this book (such as a doctorate in medieval studies for my medieval mystery), I’ll list it here. You can reach me at MyPhone#. I’ve included exactly the elements you’ve asked for (first X pages, synopsis, both, or neither) below. Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

You     

though this was was for a mystery novel I think it could act as a good starting point for just about anything.

one last thing you need is an amazing hook, your query needs to be attention catching, short and free of errors.  I also come across this amazing website. It’s like an online writers community. You can go there to get critique partners, ask advice, give advice, chat with fellow writers and a whole lot more it is totally a must see site for anyone serious about the love of writing..

http://agentqueryconnect.com/

here are some pages I found helpful many with examples of query’s that got their authors agented.

http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/23-literary-agent-query-letters-that-worked_b76306

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter

http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx

http://knightagency.net/manuscript_submissions/writing-a-solid-query-letter/

Happy writing!

shan