Behind “The Process”: Querying Agents (Again)

Yo, yo, yo,

As some of you may know, I’m a writer. I wrote a book called Switchers. It’s a YA speculative fiction novel, blending sci-fi and a wee little bit of horror. I have a section on my website that gives a better description.

For those of you who aren’t up to date on my journey of trying to get an agent, I’ve written two other Behind “The Process” posts–Rejection and Querying Agents.

Since the last post, I heard back from two agents. Both said no.

(Dang it!)

That’s OK. As much as I want an agent, I want to find the right agent. To do that, a few things need to happen. But first I should say:

I am Not an expert in the publishing world by any means

This website, and specifically the posts about anything to do with publishing, is based on my experiences. I’ve not yet landed an agent, nor have I had a novel published. I’m just a really cool, super talented, humble guy trying to follow his dream.

Querying Ground Rules

  1. Research before you query. Find out who you’re going to query. Get on a search engine and find your favorite writers’ agents. When typing in the search box put your favorite author’s name in the blank: “_____________’s literary agent”. Sometimes it comes right up, sometimes you have to do some website bouncing, but you’ll find it if you look. Also, go to a site like Goodreads to find popular books that are similar to yours. You can find peer authors, and, by extension, their agents. Everything I’ve read and heard from agents–they want you to know who your market is.
  2. Write a good query letter. I wrote a pretty crappy query letter the first time around. I’m embarrassed to say, I put the wrong number of main characters in it, then named them all, thus exposing that I don’t know how to count to 8. Stupid oversights are likely to turn busy agents off to your pitch. Know your story. Beyond knowing your story, you have to know how to sell it too. (*see Querying Agents for query letter resources.) Bottom line here, treat your query letter like your story–write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite…
  3. Write a good synopsis. Unlike a query letter, which is kind of a tease, a synopsis is a full blown tell-me-everything-that-happens. The first synopsis I wrote pulled back on the spoilers and didn’t give away the ending. That, as I understand it, is the opposite of what a synopsis is. Query=tell me just enough to get me interested in reading it. Synopsis=tell me everything that happens so I could repeat it and sound like I actually read it. So if an agent asks for a synopsis, actually give them one.
  4. Check each agent’s submission guidelines. Sounds simple, but every agent I’ve read or heard from says this, and not without some pain in their voices. They tell you exactly how to do it. Listen.
  5. Don’t query more than 6 agents at a time. This seems to be a fairly universal idea. 4-6 seems to be the appropriate number, according to the resources I’ve used.

My First Round of Queries

Failed to follow the rules. Bad query letter. Didn’t research very well. Basically sent letters to anyone who had science fiction in their wish list. And I’m pretty sure I screwed up with the submission guidelines on at least one or two of them. I didn’t query too many people though, so I had that going for me.

Long story short, no interest. Only 2 agents responded at all.

Second Round

Heard back from all but 1 of the agents! All I heard was no, but I went from not getting responses to at least getting rejected. I’ll take rejection over being ignored. I followed all the rules this time. I rewrote my query a few times, then, when it was up to my standards, had a few people look it over for me. I had one agent ask for a synopsis, but, as I mentioned earlier, I wrote a terrible one. After two rounds, I was still without an agent, but motivated by the responses.

Third Round (Now)

I’m on my third round. There are still a few more query letters to send out. My query letter is better. I worked on my synopsis, too, for this go around. The thing I improved most though: research. I was serious this time about making sure that I’m not just sending randomly. It has become increasingly apparent that research is the most important part of this. What does that mean? It means knowing who you’re sending your stuff to, and what published writers and/or books your book would hypothetically be grouped with.

My Goals Moving Forward

The overall goal is getting an agent and getting published. But getting an offer for representation seems to come after getting a request for a full manuscript. This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m getting excited just thinking about it. If an agent is interested in someone’s query, they could ask for some or all of the manuscript. Granted, the person asking for the manuscript could still say no, but the request itself is one of the last steps before they say yes. So my goal, for now, is to get a request for the manuscript.

A Few More Resources

And that’s where I’m at, folks. If anyone has any experience with this kind of stuff, please go to the CONTACT section, or sound off in the comments. I’ll take all the help I can get!

Also, a quick thanks to all the visitors. This month is on track to be the busiest yet (in terms of traffic) for this little ol website since I started it in June, and I really appreciate the support.



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Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five!

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