Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What you need before you query

query letter ....................................yes,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,yes.............. yes


dedicated query/author email
,,,,,,,yes............ ,,,yes.......... ....yes

word count
.....................................yes,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,yes.............. no

finished project
.............................yes,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,yes.............. no

proposal, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,no ............ . yes

platform/established presence,,,,,yes..............yes

blurbs,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, no............. . no

Marketing strategy
,,..................,.,,no............ ,,,yes........ ......yes

Answer to the question:
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,no............ ,,,yes..............yes
"Why I wrote this book"

comparison books,,,,yes,,,,,,,,,,,,,,yes
"how is this book different
from others in this category"

*what counts as a website? Blog=yes. Twitter=no. Facebook=no. Myspace=no. LinkedIn=no
A blog and website can be seen by anyone who wants to reach you.
Twitter/Facebook/myspace can only be seen by "members"
It's important there be NO barrier between your contact info and the person who wants to reach you


JohnO said...

I like the drunken columns! Quick fiction follow-on question: You don't care whether we include a "would appeal to fans of Author A and Author B"?

Jade L Blackwater said...

I'm curious - would you say that a fiction writer should have a marketing strategy, even if it's not necessarily required at the query stage?

Perhaps better asked: would you be more or less interested in a fiction writer who has already surveyed the market and has a plan in mind for their book?

Thanks for this list - very helpful and relevant!


hollywoodclown said...

I love it for it's honest simplicity.
Thanks Janet.

Yamile said...

This is so timely. Thanks!

Emma Michaels said...

Thanks for the information!


coffeelvnmom said...

Awesome checklist! Thank you, thank you and THANK YOU!

Rachel Cotterill said...

I'm short one query letter... I knew that, of course, but it's nice to know I'm not missing anything I didn't know about!

Eva said...

This was a very helpful post. Thank you for spelling it out for all of us that are just beginning the query process.

therese said...

You are a jewel!

csmith said...


(I love tables. Tables are so easy to read).

Merci beaucoup!

Gary Corby said...

You forgot to say, a website and an author email address which works.

lora96 said...


The marketing plan thing freaks me out anyway. Glad to know I don't have to have a spreadsheet full of potential public appearances, podcasts, etc. in order to query responsibly.

Heather Kelly said...

No synopsis for fiction work?

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

THAT'S why I love this blog. Striaght advice.

Laura said...

LOL, it doesn't get more simplistic than that! But I'm sure someone will still write in asking what they need to include in a query.

It would be great if y'all could put a script into your web page that makes this pop up in order to leave a comment, like having to prove you're not a robot. It might cut down redundancy by 5%...

Jason said...

Great table...simple and useful.

And thanks for posting Rev. Dr. King's Birmingham letter yesterday. You often hear a lot of talk ABOUT him, but not many people actually pay attention to his message. Good on ya!

alexisgrant said...

This is great! Especially because you included memoir, the all-too-forgotten category when it comes to submission guidelines.

So here's my follow-up:

If you do NOT need a proposal for memoir, but you DO need a marketing section and comparison books, how do you present those without a proposal?

writingyourfeelings said...

"would you be more or less interested in a fiction writer who has already surveyed the market and has a plan in mind for their book?"

Same question. I understand that authors don't really have any role in the marketing/book cover/etc of their book, but are their exceptions? What's an example?

Also,@HeatherKelly so, should we write a synopsis just in case one is requested, or just assume we will never get requested (muahahaha) and wait until we are?

writetrends said...

This is fantastic. Thanks for sharing it.

Marisa Birns said...

Always good to have a table. It shows AND tells!


agoraphob said...


I am confused. I have been told I need a proposal (by some agents I have queried) for my memoir. A friend of mine sold her memoir based on a proposal and three sample chapters. Was this a major exception?

Cam Snow said...

I'm surprised that you think a website is required at the query stage.
What components would you like to see on the webpage? Query? Sample Chapters? Synopsis?

Janet Reid said...

Cam, there's a whole post dedicated to why you need a website before you query.

It's here

Stephanie L. McGee said...

Bookmarking. Very helpful post. Thanks so much.

Wulf said...

Does parody count as fiction? For instance, if I wrote a novel about surviving life without an iphone (obviously meant as humor; don't try it!) would that be fiction?

Stephanie said...

Great no frills advice!!!!

ryan field said...

"Cam, there's a whole post dedicated to why you need a website before you query."

I remember reading that post. But I'm glad you added the link, because I was wondering about the website thing, too.

I don't have an official writer's website and I may never have one. But I do have a daily updated blog, with contact info that's easy to find...thanks to your post about being reachable. It makes a difference.

Abby Stevens said...

Hi Janet,
I've read the post you referenced above and I notice in it you say BLOG. So we don't need a then? A blog will do the trick?

Keith Popely said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lost Wanderer said...

I also had the question about website. Blog I can understand, but as an unpublished author, there isn't a great deal to put on the website. Off to read the post Janet referenced.

Krista G. said...

Lost Wanderer, I think blog counts as website. You just need some internet presence so that, if Agent of Your Dreams needs contact information or wants to learn more about you, she (or he) has a place to go.

Jemi Fraser said...

Thank you! This list is awesome :)

Linda Rader said...

Once again an easy to follow, short and to the point post on a relevant question. I like reading the comments that follow almost as much. And I didn't know you had a post on websites. I will check that out.

Jourdan Alexandra said...


Would you say you definitely need a synopsis before querying? I've heard that agents only really ask for a synopsis before sample pages if the author is already established and they want to see what the work is about. I'm personally having a hell of a time writing mine, but I don't want to voyage into the world of querying without one if it's an absolute necessity. Would you say it is?

Thanks for your time if you had enough to answer this question!

Miranda said...

This is cool. I think it should be on the cover of books like "Guide to Literary Agents." But I also think you need a category that says something like, "You know the difference between fiction and nonfiction, and you know better than to call your ms a nonfiction novel or a fictional novel."

Diana said...

I ask this in all seriousness: does an active twitter account with a decent following count as a web page?

Herzleid said...

I'd agree that a Twitter account does -not- count as a website (it's too fleeting, and may not be very representative if you engage in a lot of topical conversations, friendly chatter etc.)

However, as far as I know you -can- view a person's Twitter account without being a signed-in member (unlike Facebook. I detest people who just assume "everyone's on FB") unless the person has protected their updates of course. Just thought I'd point that out. =)

Rachelle said...

Great checklist. Thanks! I'd add that you need to put your name into Google's search engine and make sure that YOU come up on the first page of searches. Try to make it all 10.

rickischultz said...

You've done it again - thank you!

Ricki Schultz

Graceful said...

Wish I'd read this before I'd queried!

But one question...and sorry I'm slow on this...what is a "dedicated query/author email?" An email address that just goes to me....or some sort of "special" email address?


Betsy Ashton said...

I'm not sure I agree that a novelist shouldn't have a marketing plan. I've been teaching writers about marketing for the past year or so. When I mention what goes into a good marketing campaign, I get a "deer in the headlights" look. Stunned. Startled. "What I have to ask people to buy my book????"

Trust me, "if we build it, they will come" worked for Field of Dreams, but not for anyone else. Besides FOD had a heck of a marketing plan/budget.

Deep River said...

@Graceful: A "dedicated query/author email?" means an e-mail address that you set up and control exclusively that is used for no other purpose than communicating about your literary work.

Lauren said...

Thanks for the great information. I just sent an email to my writer's group with a link to the post.

Karen Jordan said...

Very helpful info! Thanks a million.

Carol Silvis said...

Thanks for the checklist.

diane s said...

This is great, thank you! Can I ask a supplementary stupid question (SSQ) - what if the book I am working on is part memoir, part non-fiction (i.e incorporates factual stuff alongside my own story)? You're going to say write it first, aren't you? Would so love a contract first, especially as there are similar books out there... but will plough on!

Tristan de Chalain said...

Janet, this is great. Very concise, very helpful, very easily digested. thanks a bunch. I'm going to recommend this on my own blog.

Summer Spring said...

Should you still have a website if you're writing under a psuedonym? For example, what if you have the same name as an already published author?

I hear that sometimes psuedonyms change based on publisher's opinions, or they may even change at the agent level. I think it might throw some people off to read the blog of Jane Doe for a year only to have her say, "Just kidding. My name is now Francesca Murphy."

And Jessica Faust says you should maintain your psuedonym on all your correspondance and so forth.

So what to do?

Also, if someone is writing under a psuedonym, do you want them to query you with that name, or with their given name?

What about if the given name is the name of a published author?

I know some agents google the names of authors, so wouldn't that trip a new author up?

Alaina said...

Hi Janet,

I want to thank you so much for this blog! I only sent out one query so far and wish I would have found your blog before that. Ugh... I am sure I will end up with a rejection now, but at least I have learned!

When you are talking about having a blog, I just started one through here and am wondering if you are looking for people dicussing writing, or can it be anything we feel passionate about?


Rhyanna said...

Thanks and Bless You Janet for posting this in its very EASY to read format. Now no one has an excuse not to know what your guidelines stipulate.
Ahhhh...closed until Sept 1...enjoy your vacation...

Doesn't school start about sep 26?