Sunday, March 27, 2016

Querying Resource Roundup

Doing the Querying Dance?
Image: Pixabay

Having made it through the query trenches myself, I thought I'd share some of my favorite go-to resources on query writing, researching agents, and staying motivated and organized through the waiting and the inevitable series of rejections.

Writing a Query

Successful Queries
One great way to see how to craft a great query is to read queries that have gotten offers of representation or publication.

I've compiled links to 600 successful query letters in my Successful Queries Database.

There are pretty large collections of queries that worked at Query Tracker. The previous link takes you to a database of success stories that is browsable by genre, word count, and agent. Be sure to click the "show interviews" box to limit your browsing to only those success stories with interviews. At the bottom of each interview you'll often find the author has shared their successful query.

 Agent Query ConnectAbsolute Write (you may need to join first to read the thread), Writer's Digest,  and YA Writer's Reddit, have many successful queries as well. Also check out Amy Trueblood's "Quite the Query" series, YA Highway's Query Series,, the themed collection on GalleyCat, some in the Query Tracker forums,  on the list of successful kid lit queries on Adventures In YA Publishing, and on Dystel & Goodrich's blog.

And a few more here, here, here, and here.

Agent Advice
How should you write your query? Sometimes it's best to get advice straight from the agents' mouths. Resources: Agents Weigh in on Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Querying,   Writer's Digest Interviews,   Query Letter Pet Peeves - Writers in the Storm,   Janet Reid/Query Shark's Top 20 Tips,   Query Shark's Effective Queries Workshop Notes,   Caitlin McDonald's Top 10 Pet PeevesAbsolute Write's Agent AMAs and   Kate Testerman's "About My Query" Series

Agent Advice: Twitter Edition
There are several GREAT hashtags on twitter that you can follow (and in some cases, interact via) to find out more about agent preferences, likes/dislikes etc. regarding queries and more.
Read agent thoughts as they live tweet their slush pile: #querylunch, #tenqueries, #500queries
Or ask an agent a specific question if they host: #askagent, #askfuse,

Query Theory
I'm starting a new series on my blog dedicated to the illustrious query: anatomy, formulas, inspiration, the art vs. the science of query writing, and more!
Part 1: Anatomy of a Query || Part 2: The Query Letter Pitch as Story

Successful Query Database
I have an ongoing Google Spreadsheet of "queries that worked" Which currently has links to 600 queries that landed an author with their agent. It's browseable by genre, year, agent, and a few other things so if you're looking for a particular kind of query example, you might find it helpful!

Getting Feedback on Query Drafts

Here are some places where you can get feedback on your query from peers and/or professionals. Also keep in mind that one of the best ways to get better at writing your own query is to dive in and critique others' queries! 

Absolute Write's Query Letter Hell
  *Will require a (free) membership and password to join/view*
This is one of the largest, most active communities of query critiquers out there, and where I always took my queries to get feedback. A word of warning: it is called "Query Letter HELL" for a reason, so keep that in mind. The 'squirrels' (as the critters are called) are very thorough, very opinionated, and also very very willing to rip your query apart until there's nothing left. Take what feedback resonates with you, be prepared to struggle a bit with some that might not. It's okay to set feedback aside for awhile [ and maybe pick it up later if your query doesn't get a very good request rate!! ;o) ] I never left QLH with all the squirrels agreeing on the effectiveness of my query. Some loved and some hated it. But in the end, it did the job!

Agent Query Connect
Post your query for others to provide feedback, and jump in and crit others' as well! In my experience, the critters on AQ tend to be a little less critical than those on AW, so if you're looking for a gentler experience, maybe try here? Of course getting critted is always a little painful :o)

Other Query Critique Forums

Also check out SCBWI/Verla Kay's Blueboards  (for kidlit authors) ||  QueryTracker Forums

Query Shark
If selected (be *sure* to read the guidelines first), this agent-by-day, Query Shark by night will happily tear your query to shreds for you for all the interwebs to see.  [ You can also take the wimpy route like I did and simply read through previously shredded queries ;o) ]

Join this twitter pitch-party style query swap (check the rolling dates) to find the perfect peer to help refine your query.

Query Critique Calendar
I keep a list of upcoming and/or recurring opportunities to receive free feedback on your query letter from literary agents, lit interns and agented writers. Check it out here.

The Query Lab - Query Feedback Giveaway
I've started doing monthly query letter critique giveaways right here on this blog!

Researching Agents

Finding the Perfect Agent for You
Here's a quick post I wrote with tips and links for finding an agent that represents books like yours, and is currently seeking books like yours, as well as some red flags to be aware of.

Agent Spotlight on Lit Rambles
This is a FABULOUS resource when researching agents. Click the links on the left-hand sidebar to select an agent profile. Each "Spotlight" / Profile compiles all sorts of info about the agent, the genres they rep, excerpts from interviews, links to more info around the web. It's Amazing.

See Also: Agent Interviews with Krista Van Dolzer, Dahlia Adler's list of Links to Agent Interviews, ,  Amy Trueblood's "First Five Five Frenzy", and Dee Romito's Query. Sign. Submit.

Manuscript Wish List
Search agent profiles by name, genre, and more to find an agent who's looking for just what your manuscript has to offer. Agent wishlists are updated periodically, and there are also annual #MSWL days on twitter where agents will tweet their wishlists there, so check out the hashtag! (There is also a website MSWishlist that compiles these tweets and makes them sortable by things like genre, but I'm not sure how complete it is). Be sure to thank agent Jessica Sinsheimer for MSWL -- it's her brainchild!

Query Questions with Michelle4Laughs
When researching agents, especially if you're trying to personalize your queries, there is really no better resource than Michelle Hauck's blog series in which she interviews agents, asking them key questions about their thoughts on queries and query preferences. Prologue or no prologue? Love or hate comp titles? Themes they're tired of seeing? Pet peeves? It's all here! Check out the right-hand sidebar for an alphabetized list of all the agents in this series.

Personalizing Queries
To be completely honest, I'm a bit on the fence as to how much personalizing a query 100% of the time is worth the effort it takes to personalize. In some/many instances, personalizing is a no-brainer, and in those cases, definitely go for it. If you find personalization for a particular agent is feeling like a bit of a stretch, it's probably not worth your time. Of course if it's *really* a stretch, maybe that agent isn't as good of a fit as you'd thought! As this agent says, Do It Well, or Don't Do It At All.

New Agent Alerts
Writer's Digest has an ongoing series of posts when a new lit agent hits the streets. Keep on top of that here! (Query Tracker has an ongoing list of new additions to their database here as well)

Twitter List of Literary Agents
Twitter can be a great place to find out about agent's personalities, wishlists, pet peeves, etc.
I curate this list of (at the moment 600+) lit agents with twitter accounts, so if you know of any I should add, let me know!

While You're Querying: Motivation & Organization

Query Tracker
Query Tracker is just hands down one of the best resources out there for those in the query trenches. You'll have to sign up for full access to the resources, but a ton are opened up to you even at the free membership level. Know an author and want to figure out who reps them? Search QT's Client List. Find a comprehensive list of Agents by Genre. Find New Agents.  Follow other queriers' Experiences and Response Times  (link takes you to an example of this) in each Agent's Comment Tab. And with a Premium Membership get even more detailed reports about each agent's query response times, request/rejection rates, and partial and full reading times (only $25 a year and TOTALLY WORTH IT).

Pitch Contests
Even though I found my agent via the traditional querying route, pitch contests can be (for some people) a great way to infuse a little fun into the querying process. With lots of contests going on, particularly in the Spring and Fall, there's always another one just around the corner. Contests are a great place to meet other awesome writer folk. I met many of my CPs and dearest writer friends through contests! Contest Calendar here.

Support in the Query Trenches
Needing a little support and encouragement? Try Agent Query Connect's Support In the Trenches thread, or the Insecure Writer's Support Group Bloghop!

Feeling Rejected? Join the Prestigious Crowd
Rejection is just part of the business. We've all been through it. Even the bestsellers. Read some of their stories here. And their Protips for Coping With Rejection.

Request Rates that Worked
So you're sitting there, diligently working on your next WIP, catching up on your TBR pile, taking a much needed vacation, and definitely not thinking at all about that spreadsheet of agents whose "response" column is slowly getting filled in with "rejection on query," "rejection on query," "rejection on query" ... and you wonder ....

What does it take? What's a 'good' request rate?

Personally, I think that if you're subbing in a genre and age category that's not known to be a super-hard sell in the current market, you want to re-evaluate your query and opening pages if you're getting under a 10% request rate for more material on queries. HOWEVER. A poll of 102 authors who got their agents in the past 5 years shows that really, an ultimately "successful" request rate (i.e. resulting in an agent offer) can be just about anything. Check out the Twitter Poll here.

What about you? What are your favorite querying resources?

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