Every once in a while a friend or a fellow writer asks me what the querying process is like. I never really know how to respond because it’s probably my least favorite part of writing, but I don’t want to discourage anyone from attempting it. I’ve been rejected a countless number of times, so I know what it feels like to go through this process. I’m just starting out as a published author and I’m still trying to build my own writing platform, but I think this guide should help anyone looking for a publisher or agent.
I just wanted to make a list of rules you should follow before you even think about querying:
- Make sure your manuscript is as perfect as possible. Obviously it’s never going to be perfect and most writers will always find fault in their writing, but it should be the best you could possibly make it. Spend time editing. Spend more time than you think you should.
- Your manuscript needs to be properly formatted. These guidelines can change from publisher to publisher, but the standard is usually double spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt. font. It also helps if you have your information on the top right corner of the first page—your name, address, phone number, and email address.
- Buy or borrow a copy of the most recent Writer’s Market. This will give you up to date information about the publishing world and you’ll know exactly who to submit to. It’s essential.
- Know your market and what genre your novel is. Be a reader. Understand how to write in your genre and what types of books occupy certain categories. Familiarize yourself with what’s popular.
Once you do these things, you can begin thinking about preparation for querying. This is sometimes a very long process, so you don’t want to be rejected because you forgot to do silly things. You need to remain professional at all times and make sure you do your research on each and every publisher or agent. I’ve come up with a few things you should prepare right before you query.
- Work on a couple different versions of your query letter. There are many resources on how to write one, but make sure you take your time. A poor query letter is most likely an automatic rejection. I know it sounds annoying, but agents and publishers read SO MANY queries. Sometimes they equate a terrible query with poor writing skills. They think if you can’t take the time to do the query letter right, then you’ll feel the same way about your manuscript. They want writers that will work hard.
- Write up a one to two page synopsis. Most places will ask for one when you submit, so you might as well do it now. Again, there are resources that help you write all of these things. Make sure you include the ending of the book because most publishers will want to know.
- Prepare a chapter sample that you can easily send if they request it. Organize your documents so these things are easy to find. Also save the first three chapters in a word document because this is what they will most likely ask for.
- Come up with a marketing plan. It doesn’t have to be anything incredibly in depth, but just enough to show how you will market your book. Some small publishers need to know you’ll put in the time to push your work. Think about how you will promote it.
- Create a one sentence pitch of your novel. If someone asks you to describe your novel quickly, you must be able to do it. This is usually my biggest problem because I find it so hard to compress 200+ pages of work into one measly sentence, but it helps.
Querying isn’t as simple as emailing an agent or publisher and asking them to read your work. You should summarize your novel, give relevant writing credits, and then thank them for their time. Read ALL the submission guidelines and familiarize yourself with what the agency or publisher represents. Don’t send someone a young adult manuscript when they don’t even represent that genre. You’ll be wasting your own time and they won’t make exceptions for you. Don’t plead with them if you’ve been rejected, just move on and go to the next one.
Most places will tell you not to submit simultaneously, but that is very rare. I always submit to more than one publisher at a time because if you don’t you’ll literally be waiting forever. Some places take a VERY long time to answer you and that’s only if they answer you at all. Most places will respond in a few weeks, some in months, and others a few minutes later. It depends on how busy they are and if they’re accepting new clients. Make sure you check the website and make sure.
If a publisher requires an agent (which most big publishing houses do), DO NOT submit there. I know it’s not easy to get an agent, but don’t bother sending your work. It’s a waste and they won’t read it. I usually apply to agents first and then move on to publishers who accept unsolicited work. There are a lot of publishers who do, so you have to read through The Writer’s Marketplace.
The most important advice I can give you is to remain positive. If your work is written well and edited, you’ll find an agent or publisher. I know it might sound ridiculous for me to promise something like that, but if you’re serious about writing and you keep trying hard to get published YOU WILL. Your book will absolutely find a home. If you find that you keep getting rejected for the same reason, take the time to polish up your novel or your query, and continue the submission process.
And NEVER burn any bridges. Always act professional and always thank people who have taken the time to give you thoughtful feedback. You’ll never know who will give you your “big break”.
My book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15764908-lionhead
My page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6447379.Kris_Noel