As anyone who has ever written one knows: writing a query is difficult. Really really difficult. Like, figuring out what in the heck happened in the finale of Lost difficult.
And like everything that’s really really difficult, you might not get it right the first time. You might need a couple of rounds of practice or a critique in a forum (shameless plug ZOMG I have just the forum for you act now!).
What not to do
One of the more mystifying ways some aspiring authors go about the query process is to blast an e-mail to every single agent in the publishing industry listed in the To box and a “To My Future Literary Agent” salutation.
When I was an agent, what made me slap my head wasn’t just that it’s poor e-mail etiquette and knowing 1,000 of my closest colleagues were also considering at exactly the same time, but rather because I didn’t think it’s very good strategy on the part of the author.
If you didn’t get the query quite right the first time and you’ve sent it to everyone in publishing, you just lost your chance at tweaking it a bit and trying again. If you rush the submission process you lose the ability to evaluate and adjust as you go.
Send query letters in batches
I personally think it’s much better to send out the query in batches of five to seven at a time. Take your time. See what the response is like. If you’re not getting any requests, you might take another hard look at your query and opening and think about possibly making a change – since time will have gone by you might notice something you could do better.
If, on the other hand, you’re getting requests and just not a firm bite, you will know you’re on the right track but maybe just haven’t found the right fit. Going at a steady pace can be frustrating and tedious, but it gives you time to research agents and personalize, to keep working on new material, and to give yourself time to look at your query and opening with fresh eyes.
Patience in the submission process goes a long way. If you try to send your query to 1,000 agents all at once you won’t have a chance to adjust your strategy as you go.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.
Art: Portrait of a Postman by Thomas Patterson