Tips for the Query Trenches!
Ten tips I wish I’d known when I dropped into the QUERY TRENCHES a year ago:
1. Find a support group/author buddy that can chat with you during your querying journey. There will be days you want to quit where nothing seems to make any sense, and having another writer (or many) to lean on in those difficult moments is paramount to staying motivated.
2. QueryTracker (even the unpaid version) is your friend. I researched agents, response rates, wish lists, and so much more just by reading through comments left on the site. Also, fun fact, QueryTracker has a forum where you can chat with other authors. I’ll link it here.
3. Querying doesn’t get any easier, but you get smarter about the process. That awesome first draft query letter that you slaved over is NOT the best version you’ve got inside you. Get feedback, continue editing, and QUERY IN BATCHES. That way, only a few agents are subjected to each developmental version of your query.
4. You can refresh your inbox a thousand times and you still won’t get a response from every queried agent. For perspective, put yourself in the agent’s shoes. If they receive hundreds upon hundreds of queries a week, there is no feasible way to respond to everyone. IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT THEY HATE YOUR STORY. So find a way to come to terms with radio silence asap.
5. Learning craft takes time and effort (and lots and lots of tears). It’s not going to be easy to hear harsh feedback, but I’ve found that looking at intense critique objectively is the best way to make lemonade from lemons. Treat every disappointment as a lesson and grow from it. That way, no matter what happens, your positive energy is continually revitalized.
6. Less is more. As much as we all love language, brevity is an important piece of the querying puzzle. If your query is longer than a page, it’s TOO LONG. Again, agents see a million queries a week (totally not exaggerating lol). You want to be sure that the HEART of your story is what they see through your query. I’ll include a resource for query structure/length here.
7. In my opinion, your opening pages are MORE IMPORTANT than your query letter. I put a ton of focus into honing my query and set my pages to the side for the longest time. At the end of the day, it’s your story that needs to grab an agent’s attention. Please, please, please don’t ignore the areas where your story needs growth. I’d say flip-flop between editing your query and your initial pages, so that you’re always looking at both with fresh eyes. Change can be scary, but I promise that you’ll be sooooo satisfied when your novel lives up to its greatest potential.
8. Celebrate the small steps. Sent out a new batch of queries? Dance around the living room! Found a beta reader and got some critical feedback? Pop that champagne. Received your twentieth rejection letter? Huzzah, the universe is steering you in the right direction! Frame your thinking to look at every step as a step closer to publication. You’re working hard and you deserve to feel proud of that!
9. Never has there ever been a more valuable query resource. Familiarize yourself! :)
10. There are many roads to publication. Remember the reason you started this journey. Your words have the potential to change the world. Allow yourself flexibility to find the path that’s right for you. Open your mind and heart to all the possibilities, and I promise you cannot fail.