Query and the Spreadsheet

I’ve been talking a lot about the Query process and I wanted to add some of my over-the-top, anal, OCD to the mix.  Let me be clear that I’m no professional, hell, I haven’t even gotten my own agent yet (see what I did there – positivity folks), but I have been running the gamut so take my advice…or don’t…it’s up to you.  I was recently told by me De-Mentor (that’s the name she prefers I call her) that until I get 100 rejections it’s not time to give up the ghost.  After all, she didn’t get an agent until her fourth book, so patience is a definite virtue in this arduous process.  She’s my hero and source of inspiration when I think about giving up, in addition to reading my post about famous authors that were rejected before success (see post The Writing Struggle Is Real or visit:  http://www.litrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/ ).

This post is about being organized so you don’t look like an ass in front of the entire publishing community while you’re Querying.  I can’t stress the importance of keeping some type of log of your Querying adventure – consider it your depressing diary on the road to becoming an author.  Without this you will be lost and will  likely send multiple Queries to the same agent/agency – rookie move!

I use an Excel spreadsheet that has my tier 1 agents, tier 2 agents and the tier 3 agents that I’m really don’t interest me.  It is also important that you fully research those agents/agencies you want to Query.  I know it takes quite a bit of time (trust me) but throwing darts at an agency board to decide who you send your Query letter to is not only ineffective, it’s down right idiotic.  Here are the important things to research on an agent/agency’s website or social media before you decide to send them a Query:

  • what type of genre are they interested in?  If your book is Sci-Fi and they only represent Romance authors, don’t waste your time or theirs.
  • are they currently taking unsolicited Queries?  If not, don’t bother.
  • what type of authors do they currently represent, are they like you, do they work in your genre?
  • what is their success rate with authors, are any of their clients best sellers/successes?
  • do they also work with multi-media platforms, like movies, TV, video games, etc.  This is important if you think (or want) your book could get picked up as a movie/TV series.
  • see if they have a blog or twitter (or any social media for that matter) and check it out before you Query them.  You might find out some useful information that could connect you to them.
  • lastly, I never recommend Querying an agency without having a specific agent in mind.  Many authors do this, but I don’t think it’s as effective as directing your Query to a particular agent.  Research all of the agents on the agency’s site and pick one that you think will be a good fit for your project, or at least someone connected to your genre.  If you can’t find any agent with that agency that you can connect with then you probably shouldn’t be Querying that agency.

Okay, now that you’ve researched your agencies/agents, you need to start your spreadsheet.  I suggest you keep the following in your spreadsheet/log or whatever you want to use:

  • date that you submitted/sent the Query
  • agency name
  • agency web site
  • agent name that you directed the Query to
  • agent email address
  • what their guideline was, IE: just Query letter, or Query letter and first three chapters, synopsis only, etc.
  • a space for your rejection date (sorry, it’s going to happen) or “no response” as all agencies have a time allotted for hearing back, IE: if you don’t hear from us within eight weeks, assume we have passed on your project.  And if that time runs out and you haven’t heard back, you can gently remind them of your Query  with a follow up email or simply mark them as a no.  I actually haven’t sent a reminder email as I assume that if I haven’t heard, they aren’t interested – but who knows?
  • lastly, and possibly most importantly, a section for notes.  Either notes on the agent you queried, or things you wanted to bring up about them in your Query (the last one I Queried mentioned that she loved Assassin’s Creed video games and since I too like Assassin’s Creed I mentioned it in my email hoping to make a connection.  You may also want to have a separate section for notes on the rejection itself.  Did they give you any criticism that could be useful?  Maybe you need to take their comments and change your approach/Query letter.

If you’re organized in your approach you will be viewed as a professional by the agents you Query.  The last thing you want to do is look like a novice that doesn’t care enough to spend your time or energy on the success of your own project.  From what I’ve read in agent blogs, they do talk to each other about authors so don’t assume that whatever you say or do in your Query will not be spread around in the industry.  New York City is a big place…until it comes to the publishing industry.

For more information about finding multiple agents that you can Query, check out the latest edition of The Writer’s Market, or visit http://mswishlist.com/.

My Query Letter… Or Lack There Of

Hello all, sorry it’s been so long since I posted but my day job has taken a huge chunk of my brain and time as of late.  I started Querying agents in January of this year and to date have had nothing but rejections.  All sprinkled with variations of although the work has merit  to despite it’s strong points, it just didn’t spark my interest enough to represent you.  All of these end with some form of keep up the good work…or…fight the good fight…which all culminate in good luck in your search for an agent.

As you can imagine it is extremely frustrating.  When I first started Querying (I capitalize that because it’s a BFD) I couldn’t wait for my first rejection letter.  I thought it would make me feel like a real author – and it did…at first, but 26 rejections (or deafening silence) and it’s no longer fun.  I will say that the agents that responded were thoughtful and pleasant, unlike the horror stories of an agent ripping a query to shreds (see previous blog about authors who were initially rejected).  Still, it sucks!  It can cause a real slump in the creative process, making any writer worth his salt feel like they are horrible writers who lack imagination – or worse, make you throw your laptop off the highest building.  But I digress.  I thought it would be helpful to all of you in the void of the Query world to learn something from my research…and mistakes.

SYNOPSIS VS. QUERY

A Synopsis is typically 1 to 2 pages and is an overview of your manuscript.  It provides plot details, character info and sometimes even reveals any/all twists in the story.  Not many agents want, or have time for, the synopsis.  They want the Query letter.

A Query letter is a teaser of your story.  Apparently many authors actually end up using some form of the original Query letter that helped them land an agent for their book jacket.  You know, the paragraph you read online or at the bookstore to entice you to buy said book.  It is super tough, and often harder than writing the actual book.  A Query letter is about 2 paragraphs and typically starts with what type of book (genre), how many words, and why you chose that particular agency to Query.  Then no more than 2 paragraphs that summarize your ENTIRE novel without giving away anything, but still getting an agent to say, “gee, this sounds interesting and might be a good fit for my client list.”

I am going to put my first Query letter in this blog, even though it was not so good, so you can see how important it is to take your time.

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Somewhere between the realm of life and death lies the burden of the Traghettatore.

Darion Azabe’s tedious teenage life overturns when his father’s car accident sends him hurdling toward a mysterious family legacy. Traveling to the sleepy town of Lafayette, Indiana, Darion and his sidekick Renee Stark unearth a powerful destiny buried deep beneath his deceased mother’s family tree.  Soon he comes to understand the magical world of the Traghettatore, a group of select people fated to ferry lost souls to their rightful resting place.

Darion’s life grows increasingly complex after meeting Darby Therse, his troubled counterpart within the family bloodline. He quickly learns that Darby will play a vital role in shaping the future – and his own fate.  After honing their respective elemental gifts, the fledgling Traghettatores will be deemed light or dark, forcing them to journey to the enlightened plane or the underworld.  But when shocking family secrets are revealed, rage and betrayal pit the Traghettatores in an epic supernatural battle that will forever alter the balance between life and death within the realms.

The Welling: Creations is a completed 79,000 word YA supernatural novel with high potential for a trilogy. The novel has an underlying LGBT storyline with interweaving threads of forbidden romance and humor, echoing the Beautiful Creatures series with regard to the supernatural world, but also has a heavy accent in the afterlife.

I have published several articles including theatre reviews in local papers and my college paper, community pieces in Design Magazine, and copywriting experience with web site and brochure creation for chefschoicecatering.com and gayweddingconnections.com; however, this is my first novel.  I have researched your company and am highly impressed with your accolades in the YA and Thriller genre; moreover, your enthusiasm to work side by side with authors is refreshing.  All of these things lead me to believe that The Welling: Creations would be a great fit for the Trident Media Group.  Even though I am querying a handful of agents simultaneously, I would be honored by your representation.  If you are looking for a diamond in the “slush”, I am the author for you!  Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon!

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Diamond in the slush…shoot me!  At the time I thought it was clever, now It’s just embarrassing.  This is much more of a Synopsis than a Query letter, far too much detail and way too long.  I have revamped, rewritten and rerouted three other Query letters since then, and although I’m still getting rejections, I’m not embarrassed by my letter.  Here is the latest draft I wrote and sent out.  It’s still too wordy, but its a work in progress.

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Between death and the rebirth lies the burden of the Traghettatore.

Eighteen year old Darion Azabe unearths a supernatural secret buried deep within the roots of his family tree that will shift his destiny in unimaginable ways. He is the next in line to become a Traghettatore; an ancestral ferryman fated to carry lost souls through the shadow veil.  Guided by a cryptic ghost and a gypsy fortune teller, Darion edges closer to his first soul crossing and learns that his fate is inexplicably tied to another.

Darion is only one side of a cosmic coin – the yin to someone’s darker yang – and his counterpart Darby Therse hides secrets of his own. When Darby reveals a devastating family cover up, fate is rewritten and an epic paranormal battle ensues, culminating in the birth of a biblical prophecy that will rip the delicate balance of the spirit planes apart – unless it can be stopped.

The Welling: Creations is a completed 79,000 word Paranormal YA manuscript with high potential for a trilogy. This supernatural novel has a balanced mix of straight and gay characters with threads of forbidden romance and a thriller instinct.

With a degree in Journalism, I have published several articles in local newspapers, wrote community pieces for Design Magazine, and have copywriting experience with web site and brochure creation for companies like chefschoicecatering.com and gayweddingconnections.com, but this is my first novel.  Thank you in advance for your time.

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The lesson here is take your time and really put some thought into your Query letter before you send it out to the world.  I know you’re excited, I’m finally done with this book and I can’t wait to send it out and get it published, but trust me…wait until it’s perfect!

For more info on writing a good Query letter, visit:

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter