Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Monday, March 28, 2016

Input needed

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.

A 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.



74 comments:

CynthiaMc said...

Best thing you've written. Thank you.

nightsmusic said...

I don't do Facebook much. Mostly watch the PA Eagles waiting for the babies to hatch, keeping up occasionally with news of friends so, I don't know but is there a way to add pages? Maybe something in the Details About You section and then just post this whole blog? Because I sure wish I'd had this when I first started. It would have saved a lot of time. I looked at websites for the agency, for the agent, Writer Beware and a couple others but even then, many times the information wasn't up to date at one place or another.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"...people who know more than nothing, and those who know nothing."

There are also the folks who don't know, what they don't know.

What I learned: Your query is your interview outfit and first words out of your mouth regarding you.
Your book is the content of your qualifications and how well you communicate that content.

You won't get the job if you show up in jeans, a t-shirt and slur your words, unless it's a pitch session at the end of the bar with Janet. Buy her one and she'll remember you.

I think it's ironic, you can be sitting on the great American novel, and no one will know about it, if you can't write a decent one page letter, at the right time.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"Give yourself time to learn something about publishing before you dive in."

This should be a permanent sub header and tattooed to every writer's forehead...backwards. I've covered mine up with make-up from time to time, that's why I'm such a ditz.

Colin Smith said...

First off, hello, everyone! Not that anyone actually noticed my absence over the past couple of days, but, you know, Easter weekend and all. I did take a look at the WiR, and it was great, as usual.

Are you looking for suggestions, Mighty QOTKU? If so, I have two:

1) Make your "How to Query Me" post a permanent page on the blog and link to it under "Query Letter Help." You have links to lots of general tips on querying, but nothing that says "How to Query Me." Granted, one ought to be able to intuit how to query you specifically by reading all about how to query. But some people struggle with taking general advice on something they've never done before and applying it to a specific task.

2) Offer some concrete examples of queries that worked. Yes, I know, there are those in QueryShark. But I can only think of one QueryShark "winner" that went on to be published. Not that there weren't others, but I can't think of any others. Maybe Patrick Lee or Gary Corby will let you post their initial query letters? You could then comment on what was about these query letters that made you request.

Other than that, what you have here is right on the money, so to speak.

I think that's all I have on-topic. Let's see how the rest of the day unfolds... :D

Standback said...

This is a great idea, but the present form could use some improvement.

First and foremost, you start with a very long explanation about how YOU assumed XYZ and actually those weren't good instructions and they'd lead new queriers ASTRAY had they only followed those well-meant but fatally flawed steps and --

No. Start at the beginning. Start with what THEY want to know, or perhaps tell them that YOU know something they need to hear. Start with an intro that addresses THEM.

Second, you don't need to tell people how to use the internet. People know that different sites look different and are arranged differently. Tell them what they're looking for, and if it isn't obvious, how they should find it.

Explain the terminology you know, and tell them what to look for:
"If you have an agent's name, you need to find their website, or else their agency's website. Somewhere there will be instructions on how to submit. It might be labeled "How to query," "how to send work," ....
-- That's all great. You don't need to teach them how to navigate web pages, though :P

It also sounds like you're looking for a handy terminology reference, to explain terms like "agency," "query letter," etc. For example, you say "A query letter is a business letter that tells an agent about you and your book," but then you leap right into what it isn't, and what not to do, and how much effort it is. That won't make any sense to somebody who doesn't yet understand what a query is - they'll need a more detailed definition, and ideally a simple example.

I think you should look for some acceptable resource that already defines basic terminology, and single out a few key phrases that will ground a newbie, give them a sense of what they need to learn about. If you don't have one, I imagine you can write one - it doesn't need to be exhaustive, just give people a place to start, so they don't come away assuming a "synopsis" is basically the same thing as a logline.

The advice about patience and learning the field before diving in is, of course, spot on :)

And, if you've already got the Publishing 101 tag, it'd be much more helpful to give them the link right to those posts: http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.co.il/search/label/Publishing%20101 ; Publishing 101 .

Awesome project. Hope this helps. And all the best :)

Lucie Witt said...

When I finished my first book and started researching how to publish, I remember how the initial information I found seemed like it was published in another language.

It helped me to understand how important queries are by understanding the sheer mass agents receive. It's easier to understand why it's important to take your time when you realize some agents get hundreds a week.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

How did I find my way here, Oh Great QOTKU? I started at Writer's Digest website. They'd been around for ages, publishing a handydandy annual book sinc...19??. When I became serious about my story again, I googled them. Through WD's columns, I found other websites, which led to other websites and, eventually, Query Shark. I stayed with Query Shark for awhile before I found my way here.


And truly, Janet, I appreciate your comment that publishing is "akin to moving to a foreign country." Because that exactly describes me when I first started to read about publishing. And querying. And writing synopsis(es?). And learning the art of crafting a good novel as well as the intricacies involved in writing an excellent, FTW (For the Win) query. I was a lost woodland critter. Well, I'm still a not-quite-there-yet wee woodland critter but I'm not lost.

Are you also going to post this as a "note" on your facebook page?


Adib Khorram said...

I like what you said at the end about the value of patience and I think something along those lines might make a good intro before you dive in. It may sound silly, but I have found that being told at the top of a page that I'm about to see a lot of information helps me be in a better mindset to absorb it.

I didn't see a mention of Publisher's Marketplace, which lamentably seems to be the ONLY way to find out info on a number of agents—though I know mileage may vary depending on the agent. And ways to connect with other writers who are querying (like QueryTracker or Absolute Write) might be useful resources to include as well? Or useful Twitter tags to follow (like #querytip or #tenqueries or #askagent).

Regardless, this is a treasure trove of info! Thank you for putting it together.

Colin: I can think of two QueryShark chum off the top of my head who went on to be published (Josin McQuein's PREMEDITATED and Heidi Heilig's THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE), plus a third (AC Thomas) who has a forthcoming book that is not the one submitted to QueryShark. I'm sure there are more, but I do read a lot of YA, so those ones stuck out at me.

Colin Smith said...

You want to know how we first found you? Eeek! That's like asking me when I first started watching Doctor Who. It was so long ago, it just seems as if it's always been in my life. I'm going to guess it was via QueryShark. More than likely, I had just finished that first novel (not FIRST first, but first "ooo this might be publishable!") and I was researching how to get published. I know I have a list of possible suitable agents in a notebook, along with a list of QueryShark "FTW" entries. I didn't query you because you don't rep the genre I'd written, and I didn't know you well enough to query you anyway. ;)

Donnaeve said...

About six years ago when I buckled down to finish my first book I remember spending a LOT of time ordering books + reading tons of websites about publication. When I think about the information "out there" it reminded me of that video I watched about the universe. EARTH, our huge beautiful globe is but a speck, surrounded by billions of galaxies galore which are, in turn, billions of light years away. To anyone wading in, this is what it will feel like when they first start to read and learn about everything from querying to publication - they will feel like a speck trying to exist in the universe.

Just for grins and giggles, I just now Googled "how to query agents." I came up with some great resources - but, OH NO! It didn't start with QUERY SHARK! Unbelievable. Seriously though, there was info from Writer's Digest, Janet Friedman, Rachelle Gardner, The Write Life, The Knight Agency, Writer's Relief, and who knows how many other resources - I didn't click to page 2.

Here's what I think is a potential issue - no matter how you try to help. Everyone is unique in their approach to problem solving. Some will want to learn all they can and be motivated by that learning, and will know when they are ready to get started. Some will read and become overwhelmed, and potentially stagnate b/c the more they learn, the more nervous they get and maybe think, I can't do this. Some will not want to be patient enough to learn, and will want to plunge right in, forget about all those resources telling them what to do.

When I consider all the information on the internet, I'm back to my speck and Universe analogy. Even with signs, GPS, and asking directions, people get lost. I feel you could post huge red flashing lights to lead folks to the "How You Query Me" information, and I believe there will always be someone who will pop out of nowhere and ask "How do I query you?"

Steve Forti said...

I echo the thoughts of making this post a sticky, like the "Query letter help" section you have.

All the info is great, and necessary. What I would also advise is for them to read up on writer feedback. Commentary from people who have gone through and learned the process you describe. Suffered the mistakes and heartbreak and hopefully success.

Once they know the basics, only then can they understand: Your query is going to suck. At first. And second. And one hundred second. You'll try too hard initially to include all the cool things you love about your novel. Then you'll finally get a good description, and it will be flat. You'll try to inject voice and character, and it might lose the plot. You'll revise, rework, start over, and over, and over. And learn, and read, and revise, and start over. And then you'll get it.

Or not. One thing I realized after a long process was that I loved one novel, but could not make a query work for it. And that fact revealed something else about the novel's readiness that all the other revisions and feedback could not. So you keep at it, you keep writing, you keep reading and learning. Revise, rework, start over.

S.D.King said...

Janet,
Thank you for addressing this - much appreciated.

Here is a funny thing. I enter contests frequently. A recent contest had three pages of rule of how to send in 125 words - and then it was done on Submittable, which makes it even harder to mess up. That is a LOT of clarification for a fun little contest with small stakes.

To query an agent is HUGE stakes. You basically get one shot to get it right. And in the world of kid lit, there are fewer agents, so each query counts for more.

Even Janet's Flash Fiction has a full page of clear directions and warnings.

Last week I queried an agency that used the term "cover letter" and "synopsis". I considered crafting a cover letter that did not read like a query and attaching my synopsis. I then did almost 2 hours of research on the agent - ready interviews, digging deep (I had a career as a librarian and taught internet research, so I actually do know what I am doing, and if I chose to I could join MENSA, so I can read.)ANYWAY, I still did it wrong, but the thing that left my mouth hanging open is that I got an immediate email confirmation stating that I should check to see if I actually sent a query or cover letter because so many people who query this agency get it wrong.

Soooo, they take the time to create an automated response to tell you that most people get it wrong, instruct you to try to get it right and resubmit (all without looking at your letter). Maybe I am wrong, but wouldn't it be easier to be very clear the first time and avoid all this falderal?

So, I think the most helpful thing possible would be to post or link to a sample of what the desired submission looks like. Or make a check list.

Thanks for listening! I appreciate an agent who has consideration for those who "don't know what they don't know."




Adib Khorram said...

For all its wonders, Google can be notoriously unreliable. Any two people googling the exact same phrase can have different results - based on search history, geographic location, and a host of other factors.

As for how I first found QueryShark, it was via link from Jay Kristoff's blog post about how he got his agent.

SiSi said...

You've got tons of great information here--so much that it might be a bit overwhelming to beginners who really don't know anything. Right now this reads much like your blog posts, which of course means its helpful and funny and entertaining. But if you want it to be more of a reference, maybe you can restructure to make it clearer to the "I know nothing" reader.

One suggestion is to include a brief paragraph at the beginning that explains what this is and what you will cover. Something like:

"I get lots of questions about how to query. So do my colleagues. Sometimes that frustrates us because we think we've already provided clear answers to that question, but turns out we haven't. Here I've gathered up the basic information someone new to publishing needs to know: terminology, basic rules of the game, how to find the information you need . . ." (I don't mean to put words in your mouth--you've already got lots of great words!--just wanted to show you what I meant by the opening paragraph.)

You might also then use headings to identify each of the sections so they're grouped together and easy to find. You could also, if you wanted, include links to other sites in the appropriate section.

I really like 2Ns suggestion of explaining a query in terms of a job interview--when I realized that a query was basically a cover letter for my book it all clicked for me. Most people have applied for jobs and so understand the basics there.

And I also agree with Donnaeve--no matter what you do or how well you do it, you won't be able to help everyone. But we do so much appreciate that you're willing to try!

Stephen G Parks said...

Janet, I don’t know that we have a better set of resources than those that either you create or already know about. I think maybe structuring the query process learning curve might be useful, breaking it down into segments and steps with links to whatever helpful posts you (or Reiders) recommend:

1) FINDING AN AGENT TO QUERY:

First step: Understand what an agent does and doesn’t do. (relevant link?)

Second step: Go to QueryTracker/other resources/, and search for agents who represent works in that genre but understand that they may NOT be looking right now. Make a LONG list of agents who interest you. Also, read Writer’s Digest for new agent posts.

Third step: Research your list by going to their websites, twitter feeds, etc. to discover who is open to submissions.

Duration: Months

2) WRITING A SUCCESSFUL QUERY

Step one: read online resources such as QueryShark, etc (Janet, you can decide whom you’d want to mention here, if anyone else). Learn not only what makes a good query, but a bad one. (relevant link?)

Step two: Read twitter, learn what #MSWL, #PitMad and other tags mean. Watch what’s getting agents’ attention, especially agents you’re interested in. (relevant link?)

Step three: Write your query, synopsis, and have a great first chapter/10 pages ready. Some agents post ‘successful’ query letters on their sites. Compare your query with those. Compare your query to those in QueryShark that got praised.

Duration: Longer than you think


3) SENDING AND WAITING

Step one: Send your query to a batch of twenty or more (but not your whole list). Response times can take months. Some agents don’t respond (NORMANs)

Step two: Work on your next book

Step three: Repeat step one, continue step two

Duration: Months

— ——

As an aside, I was reading QueryShark for about a year before I found this blog. I think QueryShark is higher profile, but in many ways this blog is more useful.

Dena Pawling said...


When I started trying to figure out “how to get published,” my first stop [as usual, because I'm an old-school person, or maybe just OLD] was the library. I found How I Write by Janet Evanovich. It's a bit outdated for the current world, but it gave me my first information.

Then I trolled the internet and the first helpful website I found was Kristin Nelson's blog. She has a drop-down box on the right side about Query Workshop. Wow was that helpful for me. I remember spending several days there, reading EVERYTHING she had on her site.

At some point I found Query Shark. Sometime later I found this blog.

I would definitely NOT get your sarcasm if you posted that google link from the top of this blog post.

This blog has Query Letter Help on the left side. I just now checked out those links again, and they are still helpful and understandable, at least to me. My only concern would be that they are posts from 2004-2005, which is more than ten years ago. I would wonder if they are still accurate.

For people like me, numbered lists are helpful.

Craig said...

Methinks you worry too much. If you make it easy you will open the door for the unwashed masses. I don't think you need that. Once I thought the drive to publication would be easy. It should not be. You need to do your homework as a writer.

You have spent so much time trying to prepare us for that long road. Don't wimp out now. Those asking how to query you on Facebook are looking for an easy way out. In publication there is no easy way out.

A while back I was pointed at QueryShark by the assistant to an agent I queried. I think it was a way to get rid of me because that query was horrid. It has made me better and has helped prepare me. There is no reason for change.

Brigid said...

I agree with Standback: it'll be more digestible if you start with what they need to know. And I love the end, that silence doesn't tell you what the problem is.

But, I think you'll need to unpack (at least briefly) three separate parts of the question "how do I query?" 1) What is a query?! 2) What does the query process look like? 3) How can I find a specific agent's query guidelines?

I'd include a book recommendation or two, so you're not stuck answering very basic questions / biting off newbies' heads. Heads taste better when filled with information, anyway.

Sherry Howard said...

For most people, learning to query is like learning to swim. You get wet first and might swallow some water when you do it wrong. All of the resources mentioned by JR and Reiders are great, and we seldom see them all in one place. We flounder around until we put them all together. When we connect them all, we can swim/ query. I'm not slow, but I've allowed years to get through the learning curve. When I finally do query, I hope to do it right with some quality material.

If you write for children SCBWI is your best resource for help finding everything. I don't know what the equivalent association is for other writers, it seems to depend on genre there. And QueryTracker is worth paying for the premium.

This blog is a wonderful source of information, and I think a group of dedicated writers here would help any member figure out a writerly problem, as obviously JR would. You can't have a resource better than this one when you're a woodland creature in the trenches!

Amanda Capper said...

How did I find Janet Reid? Hmmm...drunk and propped up against the juke box?

No, I found her because other writers/bloggers recommended her. So long ago I don't remember who they were, but I do know I don't follow them anymore. Still here, though.

And, nightsmusic, I'm starting to worry about our PA eagles...wait...is that a crack I see right now!

Megan V said...

I started sending out queries when I was 12, but I'd never really understood their purpose.

Then, when I was 14 or so I sent an e-mail to DAW asking "what do you have to do to get a book published? Is there any specific form it has to be in to even get looked at"

About four days later, I received a response—I was ecstatic btw—that said:

The best things to do are to look at our guidelines, which are available on
our website and to look at the information for new writers
available on the SFWA website (Science Fiction Writers Association).

Which led me to the (older and slightly different) SFWA info center.

http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/information-center/

Since then I've found many more resources.

I use QueryTracker to find agents and agency websites.
Preditors and Editors and AAR for a basic 'background check' so to speak. AbsoluteWrite if I have more questions.
QueryShark for ripping my queries to shreds.
Manuscript Wish List to see what many agents are looking for. Agency website to see what specific agents might be looking for.
Writers Digest for classes and more agent information.
Nathan Bransford's old blog posts on how to write a query letter and how to get an agent.
This blog for all other questions.

Colin Smith said...

Wow. All the comments so far have got me thinking about when I first started querying. How did I learn what I've come to know? Did I Google "How to get published"? Possibly. This was back in 2011. I know I attended the WriteOnCon online writer's conference in August of that year. Jessica Sinsheimer did a Q&A that was scheduled for an hour, but she was having such a blast (as were we) that 3 hours later she eventually decided she had to go to bed. I was blown away by her accessibility and generosity, both in terms of time and information. She went straight to the top of my query list (and I got a really nice rejection from her).

According to the Contest Spreadsheet, I entered my first QOTKU Writing Contest on 8/2/2011. WriteOnCon 2011 started 8/16/2011, so I must have already been reading QueryShark and found Janet's blog by then. I'm pretty sure I read QueryShark before I visited the blog. But how did I get to QueryShark? Was it reading Dan Krokos's QueryShark success story? Or was QueryShark just one of those "must read" sites on a list in Writer's Digest, or on someone's blog? Equally possible.

Why don't we ever document these things at the time they happen?! This is why historical research is a nightmare--no one ever seems to know when some seemingly insignificant event is, in fact, of huge significance. I'm sure Julie W and Diane understand what I mean. :)

Sum up: What Donna said. We all go about this in different ways. When I'm passionate about something, I research the goohonglies out of it. So finding QueryShark and finding this blog were inevitabilities for me. But not everyone is as comfortable with Google, and not everyone has the same tenacity for research. There are many who get easily frustrated if the information isn't handed to them on a silver platter. Maybe there's nothing you can do about that. To be cold and cruel, perhaps that's part of the winnowing process. Those that are willing to overcome frustration and do the digging will succeed where those who give up won't.

Okay, now I'm rambling. Nuff said.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

Back when I first started getting serious about publishing, this is what I did:

Twitter... followed first #amwriting then later found out about #askagent < -- this was all super useful because even though it's a ton of information, it was a great eye opener about what was ahead for me in researching it all. Plus, the #askagent is a terrific way to understand how important it is to follow each agency's guidelines vs. thinking there's a single way to go.

Through those, I discovered QueryTracker (forum, then later the database), QueryShark, Writer's Digest, then Sambuchino's Guide to Lit Agents (maybe not quite that order).

Through these various resources, I learned how to search for the information I needed and follow people that would help.

I think it's great that you are putting together such a resource, but probably my biggest piece of advice I would give is to start small and just read/listen. Sherry's analogy to swimming works for me: get feet wet, try some stuff out. Then go all out and research the heck out of it all. Swallow the water, but keep on going.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I remember vaguely how I found this blog, at least the first time (I took time off of blogging/reading blogs while I was in college). I had a gap year and I was living in a country where I didn't speak the language. I was homesick and so I started blogging about writing. I connected with other bloggers (seemed like we were much more active in 2010!) and those other bloggers led me here.

I'm also slightly neurotic about emails and things, so there was no way I was going to try and get published without a TON of research. Not because I was so dedicated to my craft, but because I'm horrified by the idea of sending a time-wasting email. (Side effect of social anxiety: half an hour per email at LEAST, even emails to friends.)

Craig: I've got to disagree with you about letting in the 'unwashed masses,' though I know where you're coming from. Querying is a special skill set tangentially related to writing a good novel. You can probably do both if you can write a good story, but it's not intuitive. I've always come to this blog grateful for Janet's attitude that the querying process should not stop talented writers. The easier to access good publishing advice is, the less likely it is that an agent will miss out on a good story with a bad query.


Bethany Elizabeth said...

By the way, can I get the award for most awkwardly phrased sentence of the day?

Yikes. Let me try again: Agents are less likely to miss out on a good story attached to a bad query if good publishing advice is easy to access.

Pardon the interruption. We now bring you back to your regularly scheduled programming.

CynthiaMc said...

How I Found You: I was going through a stack of Writer's Digest magazines that I hadn't read (I do subscribe) but those came when my mother-in-law was very ill or had just passed away, I forget which. I was just going to toss them but the top one had Best Websites for Writers in it so I read it instead. Query Shark caught my attention so I had to check it out (I'm from the coast and have always been interested in sharks). So glad I did.

Ravens said...

I would add that while you're at the site, check if they specify a turn-around time. Then add a few weeks (?) to that and leave yourself a reminder to be patient until then.
Also, keep track of the query details somewhere, so you can record where in the process it is.

Janice L. Grinyer said...


The world is an amazing place, and as the years go by, people of all ages and countries are now using the internet the way we used to use the local library; frequently and specifically looking for information. Ironically I even visit my library online now. Having great resources such as Query Shark and Janet Reid, Literary Agent helps to clear the muddy waters of how to get published. Thank you for providing both!

I still am not querying yet, but plan to soon. I have been reading here for the past three years. Hopefully, I have learned something :) If I haven't, it is not because of your two blogs, it's because I am not processing the information correctly. Sometimes we can't help that :D

So today's post is well written, and good information to have on the internet for those who have access.

Janet- thank you for taking note of those being on the other side of the publishing world (like me!) and how daunting the process can be.

Mark Thurber said...

Janet, I thought your draft post was great. As usual you are accumulating so much good karma that you are certain to be rewarded in this life or the next.

Like most of the other commenters I have learned what little I know via a twisty (but self-correcting and fairly accessible) path. In my case it started with a web search about word counts for different categories and genres, which led me to Twitter-follow an agent who posted about that topic, which led me to follow other agents, which led me to QOTKU, etc.

I didn't find the query mechanics too hard to figure out. My biggest mistake was querying after the second draft instead of the third (post-beta-reader) one. Which makes me wonder if at least a sentence in the post about when to query could be useful. "Query" in this context is a term of art that differs from the common meaning of question/inquiry. The key point is that a fiction manuscript should be polished, revised based on reader feedback, and of basically publishable quality before it is "queried."

Kae Bell said...

I found you recently via Querytracker, when I looked up agents accepting queries in the suspense genre. Clicked on the blog link listed on your profile page. Didn't find you specifically when I first started querying in 2015, as I had queried someone else at Fine Print.

Querytracker also lists blogs that help with Queries under the help section. Yours is there. But I JUST saw that. Sigh.

It's the synopsis bit that trips me up.

Thank you.

LynnRodz said...

I don't think Janet was asking how we found her, I think she was asking what resources we found that helped us get beyond "know nothing." I could be wrong and it won't be the first time, but after a week of fine wining and dining in the south of France I may have lost a few brain cells. Unfortunately, I also gained a kilo elsewhere. (Strict diet starting today!)

When I became serious about publishing, I found a book called GIVE 'EM WHAT THEY WANT. The Right Way to Pitch Your Novel to Editors and Agents by Blythe Camenson & Marshall J. Cook. A Novelist's Complete Guide to: Query Letters, Synopses, Outlines. It covers everything, every step of the way. It goes from before you begin your novel, to after you sign your contract and how to get paid, to everything in between.

And because everyone is commenting on how they found your website, I'll include my version as well. I kept hearing your name mentioned (all good) from other agents: Rachelle Gardner, Nathan Bransford (while he was still an agent), Jim McCarthy, and Kristin Nelson to name a few.

Ashes said...

I have to ask, are the people messaging you actually using the word 'query'?

Way back when I first joined an online writing forum, I had a ton of questions. So I posted them to the "Queries" section of the forum and was met with a lot of help, but also a lot of 'why are you posting this here?'.

Well, back then the word 'query' only meant 'question'. In fact, if you google 'define query' that's the only definition you're going to get. I didn't know what a query was, let alone how to write one or how to query agents.

My advice is to be careful with the language you use because it really is a rabbit hole full of new vocabulary and concepts.

At least the people coming to you have figured out that they need a literary agent. My personal learning curve went something like this:

Me: How do I get published?
Them: To be traditionally published you need an agent.
Me: How do I get an agent?
Them: You query them.
Me: What is a query?
Them: A letter you write describing your project and inviting them to request more. (inevitable query shark link)
Me: Okay. Once I write this killer query letter how do I know where to send it?
Them: Find an agent and follow the agency's submission guidelines. (inevitable querytracker link)

Without this conversation it would have been very difficult to learn what to do because I didn't have the words/phrases "literary agent", "query", or "submission guidelines" in my vocabulary.

Christina Seine said...

HOW TO QUERY:

1. Write an actual thing.
2. Proofread your thing.
3. Put your written thing in a box, and but that box in another box, duct tape it shut, lock it in a truck, and bury that trunk in your yard.
4. Go to the liquor store, the chocolate store, and the store that sells warm fuzzy blankets that are big enough to build a couch fort with. You'll know why later.
5. Go to the hardware store and buy a hammer. Hit yourself over the head every morning when you wake up. This will help dull your senses and prepare you for the dismay you will feel every morning when you check your inbox and there are no rejections yet.
6. Have a friend write a large KICK ME sign and tape it to your back. Now walk down a busy street in New York. This will help prepare you for when those rejections finally DO start rolling in. Yay!
7. Read ALL of the Query Shark entries. No, all of them.
8. Stop crying.
9. Sit down and try to write a query (day 1).
10. Take two aspirin and drink lots of water. Some suggest tomato juice. Read over yesterday's query attempts and reapply alcoholic beverage of your choice (day two).
11. You will now find out who your REAL friends are. Anyone not willing to read at least 30 versions of your query is no real friend of yours. Boy will they be sorry when you're all published and famous!
12. Follow #MSLW and #amquerying on Twitter. Become a member of Publisher's Marketplace, AgentQuery, AbsoluteWrite, and Alcoholics Anonymous.
13. Purchase more chocolate.
14. Hit send. Repeatedly. Pray. Cry. Celebrate.
15. Upgrade phone plan to one that allows you to check email every 5 minutes.
14. At midnight under a full moon, apply alcoholic beverage of choice and un-bury manuscript that you hid earlier. Apply more alcohol and re-read.
15. Decide this manuscript is absolute crap. Revise. Realize your query needs to be totally rewritten.
16. Apply blanket fort.

Ashes said...

I think my point, which I could have said more succinctly, is there are a lot of resources out there on 'how to query' and 'how to write a query letter', and also a lot of newbie writers who have no idea what a query is and will never find those articles.

Arri Frranklin said...

I'm nowhere near ready to query, but the decision to not immediately self-publish (after considering the arguments) led me to research submission procedure.

Which led to: "Yikes. Agent? What is this, show biz?"

Which led to the discovery that Canada has a verrrry small population, and therefore not a lot of agents. And they surprisingly seem to like literary stuff. Let's look at 'Murica! And forsooth, what is this query letter thing?

Which led to Query Shark.

Which led me to this blog and, after over a year, a relative lack of ignorance. Hi guys!

And I'm still not ready to query. :)

Christine, very funny. Too true.

BJ Muntain said...

Janet,

I was asked to trade guest posts with a writing partner earlier this year. (In the comments here one day, I mentioned the post she wrote for my blog, on PTSD and first responders.)

For my part, I could not figure out what to write. My writing partner and I passed ideas back and forth. I thought, social media for writers - but there is so much there, that I couldn't find a focus.

Then I read your post about that 'service' to help authors, and I, too, had an Aha! moment - the reason these scammers are at all successful is that too many people don't know how publishing works. So I wrote a post on Publishing 101 (I named it before I remembered your tag of the same name). I'm afraid I got a bit longwinded, so she split it into to posts:

Publishing 101

Publishing 101 part two - Querying

I looked at it now, and it's not as much verbal diarrhea as I'd thought it was. The point is as much 'don't get scammed!' as it is 'how to get published'.

As for when I was starting out... there was no internet. My first resource was Writers' Digest, paper version. Which led me to the Writers' Markets books. There was also my local writers organization - which, at that time, was only interested in literary work. It's grown since then.

When the internet came along, I found writers groups - Critters.org (and its forums), and I was invited to join a more private online forum. These were great resources. I learned a LOT. There were a couple other publishing blogs I followed (at least one of which is no longer around), and then you started this blog. It's a great resource. But then, I already had a basic knowledge of the publishing industry when I started reading your posts.

I also found the conferences to be very useful in learning about the industry - directly from agents and editors.

So, those are the only resources that come to mind right now. I like John Scalzi's blog, but he blogs about a lot more things than just publishing.

In my two guest posts, linked to above, I do mention Preditors & Editors, Writer Beware, and Absolute Write. I think they are very important.

Colin Smith said...

LynnRodz: Nope, I think your synapses are in good order. As I recall, that was indeed Janet's question. For many of us, though, finding QueryShark (and this blog) was an important stage in going from "know nothing" to "know a bit more than nothing."

But to Lynn's point, as well as QueryShark, I know I read the BookEnds blog and Rachelle Gardner's blog for tips and advice. I'm certain my subscription to Writer's Digest dates back to before I ever attempted querying, and I still have my copy of the 2011 GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS, which had some useful information. I also invested a lot of online time tracking down interviews with as many of the agents on my list as possible. Interviews are a great way to get to "know" agents beyond a "what I'm looking for" list, and many will offer querying advice specific to them. (NB: Not all agents within an agency necessarily follow the standard agency query requirements *ahem*Janet Reid*ahem*.) I hunted down agent blogs too (by that I mean agent websites, not Agent Bloggs, though he is a dangerous scoundrel...) for the same reason--specific query tips.

Panda in Chief said...

Hmmmm...how did I first start learning about all this querying stuff? There are many writers living in my neck of the woods, probably because of Hedgebrook writer's residency program, so. I think when I first started thinking about the whole publishing thing, I took out a pile of books on publishing from the library, bought several that I thought were most useful, and around that time I asked a writer who suggested agentquery.com. Then I followed the rabbit down the internet hole and started gathering information. Around that same time, a friend who had several published picture books tonhet credit urged me to go to an SCBWI conferance. Best thing I ever did.

I have no idea how I got here. But here I am! Huzzah!

The question seems to be how do people query you specifically, or how do they get started in general? I will have to go back and read the post proper again, as my tiny panda brain got all distracted by the excellent afvice from the Reiders at large. Do pandas actually have tiny brains? I really don't know, but they have very big teeth, not unlike sharks, but we are much cuter and cuddlier. Dang...way off topic.

Sorry.

Colin Smith said...

... and where did I first learn I should look for a literary agent? Ummmm... I have NO IDEA!! All I can say is I probably read it somewhere, or maybe I'd read enough novel "Acknowledgements" pages that I was already aware of the existence of such beings. Who knew they could be sharks, though...? :)

Brigid said...

Ashes: Yes! Exactly! That dialogue is really, really important because it shows the pathway. There's so much that a complete newbie doesn't know that they don't know. Like, traditional vs self-pub, but some "publishers" are POD masquerading as trad, with hilarious results, and sometimes the well-intentioned newbie self-publishes before they know why they shouldn't do that.

When I was a wee chipmunk (about 11 years old), I fell for Poetry.com's spam letter: "You are clearly a poet; let us "publish" you; btw you owe us $80." If anyone knows my former legal name, those wretched things are still findable. 11-year-old poetry is not pretty, guys. If I could figure out how to make it go away, I really, really would.

BJ Muntain said...

Brigid: When I was an adolescent, I, too, submitted a poem. When they sent back "Now send us $28 for the book" (this was back in the early 80s), I thought, "That's an entire month's worth of babysitting - in a good month. I'd rather buy comics." And that was the last of that. Not that I didn't want to get published, but I wasn't really considering a career in writing poetry, anyway.

Of course, that was long before the internet, so at least I wouldn't have wound up online anywhere with those poems.

jill said...

Another successful Query Shark chum story: Curtis C Chen had a "got it in one" query on the site. His novel Waypoint Kangaroo will be released this summer (June, I think).

Barbara Etlin said...

Stephen G. Park is right on.

I would only add two things:

1. How do you know that Janet is an appropriate agent for your novel? Maybe she is actively looking right now, maybe not. Maybe she isn't interested in your genre.

2. After following all of Stephen's advice, go to www.AgentQuery.com, and type in your genre of manuscript to search its database for agents who are actively looking for your type of book. Make your list of potential agents.


Lennon Faris said...

I think Stephen G Parks had great set up suggestions. People like numbers and set lists. You can get details in without it being overwhelming or too confusing. I would add specifics (like to the list of where to find agent interests, actually list out 'facebook, twitter, marketplace, personal website, agency website'), since people who are not very familiar with computers may need extra help there.

The question 'how to I query you' immediately sens little flashes of irritation through me, though. I'm usually a patient teacher, too. But it's like a doc-in-training walking into surgery class and asking the professor, 'ok so where do I cut?' If you're asking that question you haven't done near enough research to even pretend at being ready. You clearly haven't tried long or hard. There are so many things I don't know about publishing and I do think a clear, step-by-step process is a great idea to have, but that exact question just irks me. OK I know that was completely unhelpful.

Christina - that was hilarious.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Go to Google and type in kraft card, see what you get? Loads of useful links about kraft paper products and materials, know what you used to get? Loads of useless drivel about craft and paper, you can thank me for that. There will be a short silence now as I bath in the glow of your appreciation for my beneficence...

...

Thank you, it was nothing really and I could've done it without the help and support of my friends and family.

The trouble with Google, and it has to be said search engines in general, is that the internet got old. If you typed in, how to query a literary agent, in 1990 something, there's a fair chance it would've worked. Today, it's like shopping in a supermarket for a jar of pickled onions and a baguette, those are not the items which you're going to come out the shop with.

JulieWeathers said...

Janet,

Thank you for writing this post. I know a lot of people who will read this will think it's being broken down to idiot level, but sometimes we need that.

A man loses his tire in front of the Peaceful Pines Insane Asylum and finally runs down the tire, which has rolled down the barrow ditch. He gets it back to his car, but has no lug nuts to reattach it and doesn't know what to do.

One of the patients is on the other side of the fence and says, "Why don't you take one lug nut off the other three hubs and that will give you enough to get into town?"

"Wow, that's a great idea. How come you're in there?"

"I'm crazy, not stupid."

He's probably a writer who couldn't find answers to his query questions. And, lo! Here we have an agent trying to answer those questions.

I'm not saying people are stupid if they don't know their way around when they start, but they are uneducated. I think you do need the preamble about why this post was needed because people are going to assume, blah, blah, blah, another post about querying. When they actually start doing the searches they will sit back and say, "Hmm, well, I didn't realize that. She's right."

I'm going to break this up into a few posts so it isn't such a wall of text, but yes, this blog post was needed. It was incredibly frustrating after my last round of querying with Far Rider. It's remarkable how many agents have very little information on their sites about exactly what they are looking for. General fiction tells me nothing, especially when I just read on twitter, "Arrrrgh! More WWII stuff! Why are you sending me this? I don't like it."

Tell me what you're looking for, what you want (query, synopsis, pages, a kittyexactly how you want it. I'm very good at following instructions if I know what you want me to do. My mind reading powers are not that great.

A professor at my son's college turned the students loose with a piece of equipment in a math class and told them to use it to create a series of lights. Will, my son, asked if he was going to explain how the equipment works. "Nope, figure it out for yourself."

Will did because he's about to graduate with a programming degree, but several students in the class are high school students trying to get their general math out of the way. They didn't have a clue what to do.

Just because we can eventually figure something out, doesn't mean we don't appreciate professional help so we don't have to flounder.

Jason Magnason said...

Okay so I am still green and their is still 'milk behind my ears' as my grandfather would say.

So what do I do? I ask a couple of my friends, who are very successful authors, ad on the NYTBSL. I said "Hey so now that I am done with my novel, what are the do's and don'ts to querying an agent?"

And Delilah Dawson said "Go read every query on queryshark, EVERY SINGLE ONE!"

I even blogged about it here

Since she was so adamant about it, I went to the site and read the entirety of it. Even all the comments. Then I wrote a query to the query shark. My query was so awful, the QOTKU posted it on queryshark here.

Without queryshark I would have been lost. From here I learned about the bolg, the flash fiction, then the people commenting, then my own foolishness landed me on Carkoon.

But this blog has given me all the tools I have in my toolbox.

From Janet, and all of you.

Jason Magnason said...


Janet,

Create a post and call it: A beginners guide to getting your book published.
Then put all the info from QS and the other posts you have on the subject.

Make the post sticky as Colin Suggested. Add all the keywords and meta tags associated with this subject. (Let me know if you need help with that.)

Once its posted the folks on your blog will visit it and you can tweet it to all your followers. The next thing you know it will be the number one link that comes up when you search for Janet and Querying.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

As I read through these comments, I really like the suggestions to Janet about organizing the structure of her teaching via subheadings or outline format. That's how I learn best (yes, I'm a structured organizing nerd) and that was how I wrote part of my first comment this morning.

But then I deleted that part of my comment before hitting publish. Because, I also like Janet's stories and humor. We all do. Otherwise we wouldn't be here. And we wouldn't be the style or form of community we are without the QOTKU leadership's personality shaping us.

I work in a people profession. I have colleagues who are direct when asked a question, who get to the point quickly. And I have storytelling colleagues who do not answer a question directly and sometimes not at all! My storytelling colleagues can drive me crazy (depending on the day) because I want them to get to the point, but they are so passionate or compassionate or pastoral that I appreciate their difference from me. To let another person speak their language, share their way of teaching, is to enter another country.

All this to say, thank you, Janet. And thank you commenters. And I'm looking forward to the shape of this blog post Janet will be putting up because it will have the stamp of her personality on it.

Joseph Snoe said...

I've read tons of stuff on query letters and still can't do it right.

But the big question I've had about today's entry, Janet, is, will you sent the entry or a link to it to people asking how to query you?

A well-written informative explanation is useless if the writer doesn't find it. Maybe all you need is a response with this link:
http://www.jetreidliterary.com/Query.html

and a link on that site to a blog on how to write a query letter.

Panda in Chief said...

Now that I've had a chance to read Janet's outline on querying (as well as all the comments...Christine, yours is still my fave) I think what Janet has proposed should fill the bill. Then my twisted little woodland mind starts running on the hamster wheel, and. I think, " Is that because I now have a bit of knowledge of the whole publishing/ querying process, or am I just sucking up?"
While you can't know what you don't know, it is also hard to unknow what you already know.

At least, I think so.
Does anyone have any leftover cake?

Amy Schaefer said...

What Colin said - a new page or sticky post with basic, unadorned, step-by-step querying information. And someone mentioned a glossary; that's a fine idea, too.

How did I find Janet? That was back in the days when books and blogs were carved in cuneiform on clay tablets. They were heavy and all, but it was good incentive to stay brief.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Home from dread day job and only question is why is the chocolate cake gone? Did I show up too late? Why do you guys make me crave chocolate cake? Such is life in the reef and query trenches.

Theresa said...

This is all great information for someone starting out. I recommend beginning with the "So, what to do" section. Maybe create some subheaders or use bullets to make a bit more readable.

But whoever makes it this far in their querying research will be savvy enough to read a post like this by the Shark from start to finish.

I think I got to Janet's blog through Query Shark, which I stumbled across while looking for something good to read on querying. I was so mesmerized by QS I almost didn't notice is was one part of Janet's online presence.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I think I found Query Shark, and then this blog, via Absolute Write. Now how I found Absolute Write, I no longer remember. Maybe somebody on the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab board mentioned it? Or actually, I think I found it while Googling the people who wanted to publish a collection of my short stories (after already signing, of course).

But before then, I had no idea of the whole agent part of the publishing equation. I'd read On Writing, but Mr. King had gotten published in 1. Short story magazines and 2. by sending Carrie to a publisher (right?). So it's hard to know what you don't know. You know?

I too, as a young writer, sent a letter to a publisher about my book. They didn't answer me, though.

kdjames.com said...

I've never queried anyone, so I'm not sure how helpful I'd be on that front. Over the years, I've bookmarked all the query-related sites mentioned above, but I've never really looked at any of them (other than QS).

As for resources about publishing in general, I'm pretty sure all of mine came directly or indirectly from writers in my RWA chapter. I was so clueless when I joined, I didn't even know a ms should be double-spaced. But so many of those (online) resources have changed or are gone.

Joe Konrath's blog, back before he started to self-pub, was a terrific resource for writers interested in traditional publishing. Really.

Murderati was a great resource, and the old posts are there, but nothing current.

Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer did an entire year-long blog of everything you need to know about writing and publishing, and OMG it was amazing, but that's gone too.

I can't remember which I started reading first, this blog or QueryShark, but the entries over at QS were really the first time I understood what a query should be (and not be) and why. And, as someone said above, realizing you can't write a proper query can tell you a whole lot about problems with your story.

And so many other blog posts from various writers over the years have been helpful, too many to even try to remember. Twitter is still a great aggregator of links to stuff. And, of course, there are a ton of books (we made a list of those a while back, maybe provide a link to that with this new query post? just as general helpful writing info?)

Oh, and I've noticed you don't use tags in your posts. Does blogger allow tags? You should do that for the query post. They're so important for search results.

I agree with the comments that suggest simplifying and perhaps breaking it down and adding section headers. Maybe just say you got a lot of unhelpful results when googling, rather than showing a screencap of them? To me, that was distracting. I wanted to click a few of the old posts and read them again. So many rabbit holes, so little time.

This is a great idea. Good luck!

Joseph Snoe said...

Julie Weathers
I've read years of Query Shark, took notes, and tried different approaches. I've read many other sources too. I've had a critique of my query letter. I just can't get it.

I'll figure out how get over that bump in the road later. Right now I'm revising my manuscript(and probably making a mess of that but I love it).


Before I decided to write a novel, I had contracts for (and published) two law books. In each case I wrote a letter to the publisher with a sample chapter or chapters. Things worked out.

nightsmusic said...

EM, I have chocolate cake! With vanilla buttercream icing. It's from yesterday but still lovely. I'd be happy to share with whoever :)

I'm finding the responses to be really interesting. How people come to things in such different ways. Pretty enlightening. I thought anything with Shark in the title had to be good. :)

John Frain said...

Man, a busy Monday and this place is ON FIRE.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is Janet figuring out a way to send herself to Carkoon? Okay, I need a break and then I'll come back at this with some fresh eyes. I'm only 70% of the way through the comments and my stomach is growling...

JulieWeathers said...

*note I have been running at the mouth today. sigh So, I am trimming some posts.

Carolynn,

"You won't get the job if you show up in jeans, a t-shirt and slur your words, unless it's a pitch session at the end of the bar with
Janet."

I don't know. I was wearing a teeshirt with a kitten in a toilet and the words, "Im in ur bathroom stawkin ur agent", jeans, boots, plying a Maass agent with drinks and shooting the bull. We talked a lot about romance books and sex scenes. Too funny. I don't write romance, but that's where we wound up. Then she asked me what I wrote and I mentioned my western League of Their Own story. Her ears perked up. "That's exactly how you pitch it and I'd like to see it when it's done."

Before the shark goes crazy, this was ancient history and Maass agent has long since forgotten.

And, speaking of the Shark, I think we've known each other since she was a shark pup and I was in ringlets. (Lord, yes, I used to wear ringlets.) Maybe not quite that long, but it's been quite a while. Long before Query Shark.

Collin regarding historical details, this is why I read so many diaries, letters, battle orders, as well as memoirs, biographies, and history books. People record more than you think not realizing at the time it will be important someday. The diaries and letters give the thoughts at the moment of history.

Anyway, I must make like a writer and wrangle words. Though they dance in my mind, they refuse to leap onto the page without the battle.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well Janet, I've read most of today's comments and here's my suggestion, do nothing more. God girl you have done enough. How much more can you take on. The newbies will find their way if they have already found you.

If this comment doesn't get my ass off Carkoon, nothing will.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: And here I thought you'd just left your flip-flop behind...

debradorris said...

I too stumbled upon Janet's blog, as well as QueryShark, through other sites: Writer's Digest, Miss Snark, and Writer's in the Storm, to name a few.

Three years ago when I was convened one of my stories might be good enough to publish, I had no idea whatsoever that there were "rules" or "standards" for query letters, or that critique groups and partners existed. And what the heck was a "beta reader"? I found out about these things (and much more) way too late. I had already send an atrocious query to my "dream" agent (after scouring the Writer's Market for someone interested in murder mysteries). Of course I got no response and now I'm too embarrassed to try her again.

I wish I had found Janet and QueryShark sooner, and easier.

Thank you, Janet, so much for creating an informative blog post (with easy access) for Newbies (and for those of us who learn something new everyday). :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin, "...your flip flop behind."
Why yes I have and yes I did.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Dedradorris, don't be embarrassed, go for it. You do gain points for learning.

Sherry Howard said...

Okay, I'm going off topic a bit here. I've been thinking about JR's colored pens and editing on paper. I'd love to know your process, specifically how you color code to help you edit. It's the geek in me always looking for a better way to be organized with editing.

nightsmusic said...

Speaking of pens and editing...this is my favorite site for pens. Do NOT go there if you are even on the edge of being a pen hoarder...

JetPens!

Janet Reid said...

oh my god JETPENS!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!

I had an opportunity to judge a contest for them, and they sent me the most delicious pen as a thank you.

I think I have pictures, I'll look for them.

Amy Schaefer said...

"Delicious pen", indeed. I know you're a shark, but you aren't actually supposed to eat the pens, you know.

Debradorris, surely enough time has passed. Try your dream agent again if you're ready to query.

Christina Seine said...

Well pens are important, surely. But so are thumbtacks!

Like these Here

and Here

=D

Brian M. Biggs said...

Janet, When I first started writing queries two years ago I was dazed and confused because I did not know of one place to find the “How To” information. And now I realize there is not one place to find the information. Maybe you can correct that. However, each agent has their own idea and one needs to look hard at each agent’s notes on the subject.

But you gave me the best information on what YOU wanted. “Write Ms. Reid or Janet,” include “word count,” genre, etc. I thought your “Query Letter Check” helped and your “Janet Reid FinePrint Literary Management” notes.

I agree with others who suggest a Post with the steps in order. Two years ago I was confused as to what to put in what paragraph but I’ve found that it depends on the agent. But that needs clarification to someone just starting out. Mentioning Query Tracker as you did was helpful but I had found it by then. Also, suggest conferences. Most of them have workshops on writing a query letter. The magazine Poets & Writers is very good on the subject.

A glossary would be a HUGE help. One agent said “I want your COMPS in paragraph three.”

“What is a COMP?” I asked myself.

Ashes mentioned that the word “Query” can be confusing. You explained that very well in your “So what to do:” post.

Hope that helps.

John Frain said...

I think three things after your reading your post:
1) If a person knows enough to say "How do I query you," then they know a little about the game. They apparently understand the term query at least. That said, you're pouring a lot of information right at them, so organizing it in an easy-to-digest fashion would be welcome. Maybe put it in sections, give the reader time to catch their breath after each section.

2. I like the back two-thirds much more than the front third. Maybe you skip the parts about doing a search and not getting good results. Odds are they might have already tried that, got frustrated on their own, and then came to your post.

3. I REALLY like the final part where you prep them for how hard this is going to be. And I especially love the analogy to moving to a foreign country where you're ignorant of the customs and much of the language. Patience is virtuous when learning about all this. It also becomes a good lesson for all the patience you'll need later on. They'll learn that part on their own.

PS: The "I know you're tempted to ignore this" paragraph is more accurate than I'd like to admit.

William Plante said...

A domain name for queryshark.blogspot.com will help
Such as: queryjanetreid.com
Don't make my mistake - put word query first
A Tech at Go Daddy will set it up, free - save hours
williamplantenovels.com