Querying Querying Querying
Try saying that 3 times fast.
I just realized that I started querying September 2019, which was almost a whole year ago and it feels longer than that, given the state of the world right now.
If you're just here for the stats:
Round 1: Queried 20 agents; 8 requested fulls/partials
Round 2 (DVpit): Queried 15 agents; 6 requested fulls
I ended up signing with my agent this past February, so I queried for about 5 months.
I know everyone's querying experience can vary greatly because there's simply so much out of our control: timing, the market, which agents are accepting queries, their MSWL etc etc. I don't discount the sheer luck that several things aligned when I queried, but as writers, there are things we can control so that the querying process is more manageable and hopefully more successful.
Make Sure Your Manuscript is Ready
This is the most important thing, of course. You want your best version of your work going out to agents because you want to put your best foot forward. Now, I will say, I wasn't sure if my MS was ready. I had a few beta readers read it and the feedback was good, but I didn't get much editorial feedback from those early drafts. Some of the first few agents I queried and ultimately passed were kind enough to offer some feedback. They liked the voice, but some didn't like the pacing. Of course, this is all subjective. In retrospect, I wish I found critique partners earlier to get as much feedback as possible.
This is the time consuming part and there's not a single comprehensive source that will offer you all the info you'll need. However, it's so important because you'll end up with a curated list of agents who will most likely want to read your MS.
There's no point in querying an agent that does not want your genre or like books that are comparable to yours. Putting effort in researching is worth saving the heartache of getting rejected by an agent who wasn't going to like or understand the appeal of your MS.
I searched Manuscript Wish List, Query Tracker, agency websites, and agents' Twitter accounts. Towards the end, I subscribed to Publishers Marketplace. All of this was helpful in helping me get a better feel for which agents would be a good match for me and my MS.
Write a Good Query Letter
There are plenty of better resources on query letter writing, that covers the industry standard format, so all I'll say is make sure to have someone review it before you send it out. It is a different skill to sum up the essence of your manuscript in 1-2 short paragraphs in a way that will intrigue your agent to request pages. As with any writing, it takes time to craft and gets better with revision.
Keep Track of Your Queries
I admit I love spreadsheets and it helped with keeping track with queries. This is important in staying organized, keeping track of each individual agent's typical response time or how long before a "lack of response" is a pass. This helped me manage my expectations and stress during this waiting period. It's also important to keep track of who requested a full or partial, so in case you get an offer, you can follow up with those respective agents. Query Tracker is also helpful for this.
My spreadsheet columns were: Agent Name, Agency, Agency Website, Query Date, MS Submitted Date (for full/partial requests), Wait Time (for those who have a "no response is a pass" timeline.
I also had a separate spreadsheet for agents I wanted to query but weren't open to submissions yet. I had a field for the date of when they planned to reopen their inbox for submissions.
If you made it this far, thank you!
I know querying is a trying process and publishing is very subjective. If you're in the query trenches, good luck! I hope things align for you and your MS!