Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Query Process

I promised this for last week, but Easter and family visits intervened. Better late than never?

An article I wrote on how to keep track of agent queries will appear in the Breaking and Entering booklet which will be sold at the Malice Domestic conference in Arlington VA this year. Actually, this month, since it starts on April 30th. After the conference, the booklet will be available online (I'll find out exactly where eventually).

So, I won't go into how to keep track until the booklet comes out. Here, I'll discuss how to query. I discussed how to find the right agents to query a couple weeks ago. Now, when you've lined them up and have a long list, how to do it?

Your mileage may vary, but I like to do 5 at a time. I try to do 5 a week, and send my nicely polished query letter out for a month. Then I see if I've gotten any response. Granted, a month is awfully quick in Agent Land where times moves with the speed of a glacier that got stuck behind a mountain. But if I'm getting instant rejections and no requests, I can keep plugging away with that query letter, or I can redo it.

If you Google (or Bing or Dogpile--whatever you like to use) "how to write a query letter" you'll find lots of advice. I'd advise taking some of it, putting a letter together, and seeing how it does.

If you're a writer, you won't be able to resist tweaking your letter. I'd recommend doing this after the first month of querying. If you want to tweak it every month, go ahead.

When you start getting requests for partials, you'll know you have a good letter. That's the first barrier on this journey to publication. The next hurdle is getting the writing to the state of perfection that agents will want full manuscripts.

That's as far as I've gotten on this road, so I can't give personal advice from here, but I wish you much success on the journey to publication!

One more suggestion. Don't quit. You need to amass at least, AT LEAST, 100 before you think of moving on to the next project. Tales abound of three-digit rejection figures that preceded successful publications and careers. OK, that's not a suggestion, that's an order. Don't quit. The difference between an unpublished writer and a published one is, the published one didn't quit.

(photo from Creative Commons, taken by Dave Fergusson)


  1. Thanks for the post, Kaye. I'm not to the query stage yet, but having a number--100 rejections--gives me a realistic idea of how to define success. I'm chronicling my journey to publication, too, but I deal more in questions and chaos than answers; but then those are at the heart of my process.

    Congratulations on your nomination for the Agatha.

  2. Yikes, I just now saw this comment, Kathy! Thanks for the congrats. :)