May 27th 2016
Today I sent querying letters to seven literary agents, and here’s how you do that.
A query letter is like a CV, but for your novel. Instead of selling yourself to get a job, you sell yourself to get an agent to get a publishing deal.
I wrote my query letter a few weeks ago, and have been waiting for an ex-tutor to give me feedback on it. That feedback hasn’t come yet, and I got tired of waiting, so I started to look for agents.
The process is simple. You go on the website www.querytracker.net, and there’s a list of a whole bunch of literary agents.
It starts off at 1,434 agents, which is way too high a number to even start to process. But you can filter the results by genre, and by whether or not they are currently accepting queries. That narrowed it down to 453 agents, so I’d already knocked that number down by 66%. You can narrow it down further by upgrading to the pro-version for 25 quid but I can barely afford food at the moment, so fuck that.
From there you just scroll through the list looking at the information it gives you.
So for me, when I’m scrolling through the list I see that Stephanie Thwaites at the Curtis Brown Group is UK based – which is my first requirement. The three green symbols to the left of the flags indicate by which method that agent accepts queries. The lightning bolt means that they accept via Email, the box with the lines (I assume that that’s a letter?) means it accepts only via an online form, and the envelope means that that agent accepts submissions only by post (or as it’s sometimes called “snail mail”)
My two requirements for submission are, in order of priority, email, and online form.
I can’t afford stamps, and printer ink is expensive.
So after you’ve narrowed the search down further to UK (or your preference) based agents who accept by your preferred method, you literally just click on the names and it takes you to that agents profile.
On which you can see loads of helpful stuff, like their website, their blog (if they have one) previous work they have helped publish (quick tip: I’ve been told that it’s vital that you include a kind of “I notice that you represented ‘such and such and the half blood such and such’ type lines in your query letter), what genre they’re looking for and all that good stuff.
So research the agent, see if they’ve published books similar to yours and shoot them a query letter. Most agents have different preferences when it comes to how you submit. In the case of email, I’ve found that some agents like everything put into the body of the email, and some like the query letter in the body, with the synopsis and sample chapters in attachments. Agents will also differ in desired length of the excerpt you send. Some want three chapters, some want five. Some want 10,000 words, some want 20,000. some want 20 pages, some wants 50. Just make sure you find out what they’re after before you send the email.
I’m giving all this advice as someone who has literally just sent a query letter for the first time today, but this is just everything I’ve found online truncated into one post.
I sent seven queries today because seven is the amount of post-it notes I can fit on one of the shelves above my desk.
On these post-it’s I keep track of what agencies I’ve queried and who specifically I emailed.
Another quick tip: there’s nothing stopping you querying 50 agents at once, but perhaps it wouldn’t be wise to. I’ve been told that 10 at once is a good number, and the reason for this is because hopefully of those ten you will get some feedback from most of them – be it good, or bad. And after that feedback you can adjust and amend your query letter/synopsis/novel to make it more appealing within the restrictions of the desired word count. Or maybe they just weren’t hooked on the novel by the query letter. And all this feedback can increase your chances of being successful the next time you send a batch.
My magic number is going to be 14. Just because it’s two rows of seven post-its on the shelves above my desk. And 14 is larger than 10 so I’m bound to have a higher chance of success, right?
I’ve done seven today, and I’ll do seven tomorrow.
And then I’ll wait, because that’s the next step. Waiting. Four to six to eight to ten to twelve weeks. But waiting’s easy because you literally just do nothing. You’ve done the hard bit in sending the letter.
Until tomorrow, I hope this was helpful, and good luck.