Is there anything scarier than querying?
My novel is my baby. I’ve been devoted to it since the idea first came to me, and I’ve eked out time to write and edit it in the wee hours of mornings, on vacations, in hospital rooms and in coffee shops (where I regularly go to escape the demands of home and get some quality work time in). I have lived and breathed this story…and the thought of distilling all that passion into a one-page letter that will entice an agent to pick up my manuscript is…well…terrifying!
Before I reached the querying stage, I assumed you came up with one kick-ass letter and then used that same letter with every agent you queried. I figured you just had to swap out the name of the agent and you were good to go.
Then I began researching agents.
I started following a few agents on Twitter and reading their blogs. Following those agents led me to others, and soon I had a mental list of people who represent YA fiction I adore and who I would love to work with.
I developed a query letter I felt was strong and sent it out. Then anxiety gripped me. Perhaps my first paragraph should have started differently. Perhaps they prefer a different style. Each time I was about to click Send, I would mouth a silent prayer. I wasn’t just querying willy-nilly — every agent I’ve queried (and there are only a few so far) is someone I would really really REALLY like to work with.
There have been as many versions of my query letter sent out as agents I’ve queried. Because I have different things I’d like to say to each of them. Since I follow their blogs and Twitter feeds, they aren’t faceless entries in a list of agents to me — they are real people who have different preferences and personalities.
What I’ve learned about querying so far is this: do your research and spend some time figuring out who you want to query. Find out what your favourite agents look for and who they represent. Have they blogged about what they want in a manuscript or query letter? Have they posted sample queries that have caught their attention? Read these and learn. Then write a professional letter to that individual, not a form letter you send out to everyone. It takes more time and effort, but it makes the querying process more meaningful.
…though not any less terrifying
I’m off to rework my query letter right now. There is an agent I’m dying to query, but my current letter isn’t the right fit. Wish me luck, because I would pretty much sell my soul to have this agent read my manuscript!