You wrote a book—congratulations! That bad boy might be bound for the bestseller list, but maybe not so fast. Before you start firing off queries, consider the following:
1.) Have you researched comp titles?
Maybe your critique partners compared your book to Harry Potter or Hunger Games, but unless your goal is to make literary agents laugh, you need to find some RECENT, relevant titles preferably in the genre you are writing.
I put this first because it’s the part of querying I struggle with the most. My stubborn side wants to believe all my ideas are original and no one else is writing what I write. BUT of course the truth is elements of my story are found in other stories, and by identifying them I’m also identifying a potential audience for my story.
So: scour Amazon, scroll through Bookstagram, email your local librarian. But don’t you dare send that query without at LEAST one relevant, recent comparison title. Two or three is best. As long as one is a book, alternative media like TV shows, movies, or even video games are fine to include.
2.) Do your critique partners say you’re query-ready?
Every writer needs at least two critique partners: one who encourages you when you feel like everything you write is trash and another one who tells you when the buried treasure you’ve unearthed needs more polish.
If your critique partners pointed out flat arcs, plot holes, or other major issues then for the love of literature, please don’t start sending queries. Even if your problems don’t start until after the first fifty pages, you WILL regret querying too soon when you get full requests and you have to send subpar work or fess up and ask the agent to wait while you make adjustments.
Testing the water with queries before your work is polished will result in nothing but fast passes, especially in this hyper-competitive market. So do yourself a favor and fix any issues your critique partners noted before you hit send.
3.) Did you let it breathe?
Distance might make the heart grow fonder, or it could reveal glaring errors. Either way, don’t send your queries before the proverbial ink has dried on your final draft. Give it at least a week, preferably a few, before diving in for a TOTAL reread to make sure there aren’t any spots that bored you to tears or simply don’t make sense.
In the meantime, don’t twiddle your thumbs. Proceed to step 4:
4.) Have you identified ALL the agents you’re interested in?
Before you send a single query head on over to QueryTracker.com (they don't pay me but they should) and make a full list of 50-100 agents who you would love to work with. You aren’t going to query them all at once (I recommend 5 at a time) so why do you need a complete list? Well, making your list in advance will prevent an embarrassing error: sending to a second agent at the same agency before you hear from the first.
Further, you might have something awesome happen: you might start getting requests (and quickly thereafter offers) from the first queries you send. You don’t want to miss out on the chance to query your top picks because you only researched 5 agents and now you’re scrambling to set up phone calls with your offers. (Yes I know this is the DREAM scenario but if you don’t think you’ll get any requests perhaps you aren’t actually ready to query.) Which leads us to my final suggestion.
5.) Polish your whole submission package
We all have a piece of marketing we hate writing (synopses, I’m looking at you) but trust, you WILL be asked to boil all your thicc boi books into various bite-sized pieces. Do not gloss over this crucial step.
On that note: make sure you send your query, synopsis, and a tagline or two to other trusted writing friends for their input. If possible, also send your tagline, query, and synopsis to a writer who has NOT read your book. Does the query pull them in? Could they picture the tagline on a book cover? Does the synopsis make sense?
Get you a friend who prides themselves on honesty. And if you don’t think you have one of those, you’re wrong—you got me. ❤️
To summarize: comps, critique partners, breathe (you and your manuscript, didn't even know you were holding that breath in did ya?), identify agents, polish your submission package.
OH and this might the most crucial querying step of all: make sure you're mentally prepared for lots of highs and lows. Stock up on your favorite snacks, let a few friends know what you're going through, and be kind to yourself. Querying is hard.
If you're looking for more tips on how to recharge, here's my blog about self care for creatives.