Recently, Christi Craig made a comment in her blog post that parted the heavens for me concerning the query letter I’d been trying to write for my novel The Brevity of Roses. I realized I hadn’t been describing my book the way I wanted to, I was describing it the way I thought I should. Don’t ask me why. So I quit all the over-thinking and just wrote about my novel. The result is a concise query letter that fits the tone of my book. That was the hard part.
Now, the harder part.
For months, I’ve been making a list of agents who represented the kind of book I was writing. If you’ve been around here lately, you know I’ve vacillated between categorizing my novel as literary fiction or women’s fiction—or literary women’s fiction. You get the idea. So, to be safe, I narrowed my list to agents who represent both those categories.
I will follow each agent’s specific submission guidelines. Right now, I’m querying only agents who allow email queries, which is the majority of them. Some ask for query only, some ask for query plus five to ten sample pages (a few ask for a whole chapter) to be pasted into the email. Since I’ve not met any of these agents at a conference, or been referred to them, I don’t have to personalize my query EXCEPT to make sure I change the generic “Dear Agent” salutation to reflect the proper agent’s name. But it takes time to make sure I have the correct info in the To and Subject lines … and to fiddle with the formatting so the pasted sample pages are readable!
I will query many agents simultaneously because I believe that agents, for the most part, have already made up their minds BEFORE they read my query letter. By that, I mean that each agent is looking for a very specific book … not just any book … not just any GOOD book, even. Most agents say they like to represent books they love personally. Occasionally they may be surprised by a book too good to pass up, but in general they know what they’re looking for because they know what they can SELL. And if that’s not my book … they aren’t interested. No offense meant; no offense taken.
So, fellow writers, I’ve set off on my query cycle to find the agent who’s looking for my book. And if I get to the end of the list without an offer of representation, I’ll start again at the top of the list. Because, in six months, what the first agent I queried is looking for could be something completely different. Something exactly like my book!