My Facebook page (and other agent's pages too) will sometimes get messages asking "how do I query you."
My first reaction is to reply with this link but then I'm not sure they'd actually get the sarcasm.
Then of course it dawned on me that some folks literally do NOT know what to do first. I was reminded of this yesterday as I was reading a terrific novel about the two people from radically different cultures and their communication problems.
In our case, the two cultures are people who know more than nothing, and those who know nothing.
So, why not offer some help.
Where you come in is giving me some ideas for resources.
Think back to the very first helpful place you found and the things you
needed to know to make publishing not seem quite so foreign.
What follows is my proposed blog post: HOW DO I QUERY YOU and other New To Publishing Questions.
First of all, thank you. This post was originally intended to lay out in very simple terms how to query an agent if you didn't know the first thing about querying. I thought I was being all benevolent and amazing and frankly, I was pretty pleased with myself.
Then I actually tried to follow the directions I was giving. And came up empty handed! Man oh man, did my ego take a good swift kick to the asterisk.
My original instructions were to google using search terms "how to query" and the agent's name for example "janet reid" When I actually googled here's what I got:
Not only is that not helpful, if you click on any of those links you're diving in to a rabbit hole of unfamiliar terms. Plus, it's not the answer to your question.
I thought maybe it was just me, since I have a pretty big electronic footprint. I tried a couple names of colleagues. SAME results: lots and lots of entries from Twitter contests, interviews, conference biographies, and buried deep on the 12th page of search term returns, what you're actually looking for.
So, what to do:
1. Find out which agency the agent is associated with.
2. Find that agency's website.
3. Look for "how to query" "how to submit" "how to send work" or similar phrases in the tabs, or in the "about us" section.
Sometimes you'll have to look at several different pages to get all the info you need. Here at FPLM our email addresses are on "Contact me" and what we're looking for is listed under "agents"
Each agency website is configured differently.
Some agencies use one email address for all agents at the agency.
Some agencies use one email address for each agent, and you query the agent directly.
One is not better than the other. There is no real "industry standard" on best website layout!
Generally there will also be some guidelines on what the agent is looking for (fiction or non-fiction, maybe both; what kinds of fiction, etc.)
There will be some guidelines on what to include in the query letter: your bio, what the book is about, a synopsis, etc.
Don't assume you know what these things (like synopsis) mean. Publishing has its own unique vocabulary like every industry. You can google "what is a book synopsis" for help. Make SURE to include the search term "book" or "novel" so you're not getting information on how to write a synopsis of something else.
What you send to the agent you're interested in working with is called a query letter.
query letter is a business letter that tells an agent about you and
your book. It's not something you'll dash off quickly, because it's the
ONLY thing an agent will see from you about your book.
There are lots of good resources on how to write effective queries. I happen to be fond of QueryShark.blogspot.com because I write that blog. Start with the first query posted, and read them all.
Give yourself time to learn something about publishing before you dive in.
This is akin to moving to a foreign country where you know none of the customs and very little of the language. Things are strange, expectations are weird. The only thing to do is watch and learn for a while.
You'll start to get it after a while. The secret is patience.
I know you're tempted to ignore this. I"m so good at my job I can actually hear you thinking "this is nuts, I don't need to do this. I don't want to waste time doing this." The truth is you do. Agents hear from a lot of people and one of the first things they consider is how effective your query is and how prepared you are. Querying too soon is a common mistake. Maybe you've already gotten a lot of silence from those Tweets, or Facebook messages?
Silence doesn't tell you what the problem is. And you'll just assume no one likes your book or wants to work with you, when in fact the truth is no one got past the packaging to actually consider your work.
There are several posts on this blog labelled Publishing 101 which should also be useful.