Sunday, October 24, 2010

Project to Published: The Query Series #1

The Query Series #1

Querying is one of the most frustrating, yet important, tasks that you will ever undertake during your transition from writer to author. Querying an agent can bring as much joy as it can consternation and feelings of rejection. I have met a very small group of authors who were fortunate enough to have their manuscripts accepted within the first five queries, but I'm afraid that this is the exception to the rule.

Let's face it - agents are in a business and they are forced to make, albeit not always the most informed, difficult business decisions. Just because they like or dislike a book is not grounds for the decision-making process - it's all about whether the concept will sell on the market of today. For those of us who have 'been there, done that', it was a grueling process, filled with heartache, trials and imaginary book ideas in our heads about agents.

Writing a manuscript can be difficult, but the query process is akin to building your very own Great Wall of China. It takes time, patience, understanding, and in most instances, a great deal of luck. The best advice I, just as others before me, can give you is to not give up. Keep climbing, keep fighting and keep revising.

There are many forums and websites throughout the internet that boast advice on how to create 'the perfect query letter'. Just remember that the 'perfect' one doesn't exist. The manuscript you wrote came from inside of you, and now you must bring forth your future query letter in much the same way. A query letter that is written for one agent might bomb, but it might also be the opening of a door with another.

You must also keep in mind that agents are not 'mass-produced cyborgs' that are intent on destroying your dreams. They are your first hard look at what someone might say about your manuscript. You need this - trust me. They will let you know if the idea will work, what might need revising and what you personally can do to help make your book sell. They are not perfect and they make mistakes just like everyone else. So don't begin to think that your manuscript will never see the light of day because I received over a hundred standard form rejections before I received my first yes, and my last major book-signing completely sold out.

Don't randomly query agents. Get to know who you are querying and what they are looking for in a potential book. Listen to what they are trying to tell you and make your querying attempts based on this information. I know querying is frustrating, prone to heartbreak and it's hard to get past. However, if you take the time and effort to do it properly, and that great deal of luck is with you, you'll find the success you're hoping to get.

Series continued over the next three " Project to Published":

Query Series #2: 
How to format your query letter/ What you will need
Query Series #3: 
Important links and websites that can help with your queries and finding the right agent for your work
Query Series #4: 
Once you have found the agent your want/ What research you will need

Is there anything else about query letters you would like to see included in this series or in future posts?

Emma Michaels


  1. Thanks for the honest advice and insight! Can't wait to read more on your take of queries.

  2. I agree about query letters. They are daunting. I've been working on mine. It's tough to put enough info into it, to capture a prospective agents interest without being overkill. Thanks for the post. :)

  3. Excellent post, looking forward to this series. Thanks :-)

  4. Thanks for the insight and for taking the time to lay it out there. I'm looking forward to this series. One thing I'd like to see included concerns what happened in several unrelated blogs where the agents got debut authors to sign over to the publisher her e-book rights. I'm not comfortable with this. For whom does the agent work???

  5. Thanks Emma! I'm in the 'middle' stage right now of the process and I'm not sure what to do ... I hate twiddling my thumbs. I received several full and partial requests - sent them out and 1-2 months later, I'm still waiting. Do I continue to query? Do I stop and wait? Do I work on new novel or try to work on completed (can't keep hands off type of deal)? I hate this stage.

  6. Thanks for the tips- I'm excited to see what else you have coming up! I always like to find out as much as possible about querying.

  7. THANKS for the tips! Can't wait to read your novel!

  8. Hi Emma, thanks for this post! I still have a lot to learn about querying. I am looking forward to reading more about it...perhaps an example of a query would be great! :) Thanks Emma! :)

  9. Excellent -- thank you!

    After "honing my craft" for several years, I finally completed my first picture book in August, and am currently making small edits and art notes (based on feedback from my critique group) to prepare it for agent submission.

    Looking forward to the rest of your series!

  10. Great wall of China indeed. Thank you for the post and for the inspiration to keep going.

  11. Excellent post. Thanks for the inspiration and for following my blog! I've done the same.