How to query
Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has an interesting post up today about query letters. It seems that a group of writers got together, worked on their query letters together then hired someone to submit them. The problem is the person who was hired didn’t properly research the agents or their guidelines, resulting in rejections for the writers and, I would guess, a waste of their time and money.
It’s a wonderful idea that in our busy life, we can concentrate on writing and leave the submitting to someone else, but, if you have spent all this time making your book the best that it can be, would you want to leave its future up to someone else?
Now, I’ve never used or even researched services such as these, and maybe there are good ones. But, if you’re going to use one, let Rachelle’s post be a cautionary tale and research them well.
However, keep in mind this: No one will care about the future of your book more than you. No one will care enough to spend the time researching agents for just the perfect ones, researching their submission guidelines and tailoring the query letter to them specifically. All of these things will give your book its best chance of getting noticed, so they’re all important and should be done right.
Remember literary agent Jennifer Jackson’s Letter From the Query Wars blogs posts: Last week she read 205 queries and asked for partials from 3 — just 3 out of 205! Imagine if out of those 205, she had 12 that all read the same way, were received the same day one after another and didn’t follow her guidelines, like those Rachelle received. Do you think any of those 12 would have been in the 3? I’m sorry to say that I don’t think so. As Rachelle pointed out, even if all those 12 were great query letters and did follow her guidelines, Jennifer wouldn’t be interested in following up on 12 books that are all the same. And she’d probably be a little suspicious. I would.
Don’t short-change your book. After you’ve done all the work on writing and revising your manuscript, take the time to write a great individual query letter that will stand out in the crowd; research the best agents for your particular work — not just your genre, but your style too — research their guidelines, the ones from their website not a book that might not be up to date; research their style of working, read their blog if they have one, their clients, their clients’ books to make sure your work will fit with them; then tailor your query letter to each one of those, personalizing the letter.
Give your book the best advocate it can have: You.