The Query Post

You’ve written a book (congrats!) and now it’s time to figure out how to get it published. What are your next steps?

If you’re looking to have your book traditionally published, going with an agent is a good choice. Agents help by being your advocate and cheerleader. We use our contacts and knowledge to help shape your book to be the best it can be, to fit the market, and sell it for the best deal possible.

But querying agents can sometimes feel more daunting than writing the book itself. It doesn’t have to be like this. As an agent with The Rights Factory, I receive dozens of queries every week, and, as my first glance at the project being submitted to me, the query is a very important piece of the publishing puzzle.

This is going to be a long post, so here is a brief index:

1. Researching an Agent

2. Writing the Query

3. Am I Ready?

4. Subjectivity is Everything

5. FAQs

1. Researching an Agent

Finding the right agent is paramount, so do yourself a favor and create a wish list of agents you would like to work with. You can find agents and agencies on a variety of tracker websites, or by using Publisher’s Marketplace, where you can also find information about the agency and the deals the agent has made.

To find the right fit, make sure you’re querying to agents who represent what you’re writing. Don’t query an epic fantasy to someone who’s looking for YA romance, for example. Remember, your agent is going to spend a lot of time working on your book, so it’s important for them to be just as excited to get that work out there and into publishers’ hands!

Manuscript Wish List is also a great place to see what agents are looking for and how to query them.

2. Writing the Query

The actual query format is important. This is how you’re presenting your book, so make it as concise and compelling as possible. You want whoever is reading it to be hooked in as few words as possible. This is also a great way to show your voice, so take advantage. The query should match the manuscript.

The structure of the query should look something like this:


Tagline or Hook: This is your elevator pitch. In just a sentence or two, present your hook. This is where you need to grab the attention of whoever is reading. Make sure it is unique, and no one can read it without stopping and going, “Ooooh.”

Query: In a few paragraphs, present your book. Include the main plot, the stakes, the word count, the genre, and age category. Here you want to showcase plot more than anything else. You can include comparative titles, but make sure they’re accurate. Using a template of introduction/hook, turning point, and main plot can summarize your concept while keeping it active and enticing.

Bio: Include a few notes about yourself here, and any publishing credits if you have them, though I am personally more interested in the current book and future plans. This is the place to use to show what makes you unique, and can be used by the agent to judge compatibility. Take advantage.

Query Sample:

Let’s pretend Inception is a book. Here’s an example of a query that would have me asking for a read:

Tagline: The easiest place to steal an idea is in someone’s dreams, but what about planting one instead?

Query: Dom Cobb is a dream architect, or he was, before the death of his wife sent him on the run as a murder suspect. He didn’t do it, thanks for not asking. Now, his only remaining option for making money is breaking into the dreams of others to steal their secrets and sell them.

After a botched extraction job on multinational corporation boss Saito, his target turns the tables on him, asking him for the impossible: inception, planting an idea in his rival’s mind through his dreams.

With the promise of being able to return to his children, Cobb puts together a team of top criminals, including a young student who discovers the baggage he’s been dragging along with him in his mind is putting everyone at risk. Using multiple layers of dreams, gambits, and every trick up his sleeve, Cobb will do everything to get home to his kids, but in the world of dreams, it’s easy to lose touch of reality, and even get lost forever.

Inception is a science fiction thriller complete at XX words.

3. Am I Ready?

It can be so tempting to submit as soon as you write “The End,” but the greatest attribute to have in publishing is patience. Let the draft sit, then re-write, have it critiqued, and re-write again. Only query when you feel the book is ready, and be prepared to do multiple rounds of edits after signing to make the book the best it can be.

If your first round of submissions gets quick form rejections, have a critique partner look it over. There could be something missing.

4. Subjectivity is Everything

Rejection is, unfortunately, a part of publishing. Learning to accept rejection and learn from it is critical. Always remember that submitting to an agent is incredibly subjective, just like anything else involving preference. If one agent doesn’t want to buy in, there are many others out there who might be the perfect fit.

5. FAQs

Q. What if I made a mistake in my query?

This is a tough one. The last thing you want is for a glaring typo to throw off what could be a successful query. I would suggest being very careful and reviewing thoroughly before you hit “Send.”

If you make a small typo, but the rest of the query is great, I can’t see many turning it away for that reason only. You are very free to send a note, though of course, being pro-active is always better.

Q. What if I’ve revised the Manuscript during the time it’s being read by an agent?

My answer to this one is simple: don’t. Don’t touch a manuscript while it’s on submission. Work on something else. If you have a change you want to make, jot it down to yourself, and if an agent makes an offer, you can work that in before submission. If it gets rejected, don’t send revisions unless specifically asked for.

Q. How do I address an agent if I don’t know their preferred pronouns?

This one is a bit complicated. Personally, I prefer to be addressed by my name rather than an Mx, but many feel differently about it. Check their Twitter/website to see if anything specifically is listed. When in doubt, use their full name.

Q. Should I query an Individual Agent or the Entire Agency?

Always query individually. I have separate query folders to sort what comes to me. Queries made specifically to me are answered in priority. Many agencies will share queries they think will be of interest to another agent in the firm if it’s not on their list, so keep that in mind. You always want the people reading your query to be interested in what you’re offering.

Q. Will all my books be with the same publisher?

This belongs to a wider contract discussion, but the answer depends on how the contracts are negotiated. Generally a first book will be negotiated, and then options like multi-book deals and right of first refusal may come into play. These are details to be discussed further with your agent when the time comes.

Have more questions? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll address them in my next post.

To send me a query, visit: HERE

My Manuscript Wish List is: HERE

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