I promise solemnly
to write as often
and as much as I
can, to respect my
writing self and to
nurture the writing
- Gail Levine
Lol. Thanks. Lots and lots of practice. I usually go through 10 tries to get it down to 250 words or less. Then I shoot it to a couple of trusted friends, and see what they have to say. And I always send it to someone who doesn't read my genre (romance) to see if they would read the book based on my query. It doesn't hurt to get a different writer's opinion. Also, Rick Daley's site http://openquery.blogspot.com is a great, great place for feedback.
2. How long does it typically take you to write your query letters?
The first one is pretty quick, usually an hour. It's the 2nd, 3rd and consecutive ones that take the most time. It's all about word choices. Concise is the key. And less is more. It doesn't have to be 250 words. I once saw a query on Query Shark that came in under 100 words and Janet requested the manuscript it was so concise. It was also a fantastic query. The Hook, Conflict, Motivation, and Goal for the main character are really the essential things to have in your query. Anything else is just filler.
3. Where do you collect your list of agents and publishers?
I've been using Query Tracker for the most part. I like their feedback and comments sections so I can see how long it will take for most agents to get back to me. And they have a handy-dandy sign in so you can keep track of what you've sent and to whom and what happens to it. It's a great tool. If I get a wonky feeling after going to an agent's website, I always check Preditors & Editors. Another must have tool in your writer box.
4. What qualities do you look for in an agent?
How long they've been in the business is number one. I usually won't query anyone who's been in the business less than 5 years. (But that's just a personal choice.) Also if they're AAR. Or the company is. I also read their blogs (if they have one) and try to get a general feel for who they are as a person. I also like to take a look at what they've sold in my genre, and their latest sale. If they haven't sold anything in a year, then I pause and wonder why. If I really like them, I then do a little research to find out why. Perhaps their current list of authors hasn't written anything, or is already on a publishers list. Perhaps they're not taking on new clients. You never know.
5. Does the agent’s website have an impact on whether that agent will be added to your list?
Absolutely yes. If it's too fussy, or takes too long to load all the goo-gah's I won't bother. If I have to hunt for information and still not find it, (like how long it will take for them to get back to me), if there is no bio, or what they represent, I'll pass.
6. Do you review the agent’s sales list and compare your work to theirs in your query?
No. Never. However, what I do do, is compare my work to other authors, not repped by that agent. In my last query, I compared my writing to Susan Wiggs and Sandra Brown (both women's fiction writers whom I like and try and emulate). The way I look at it, if they already have an author writing in a particular vein, then why would they want another? How many vampire authors do they really want? You know.
On another note, I never personalize any of my queries, unless, and big unless, I have spoken with them, or had feedback from them from a previous book. Personalization isn't the key to a query. You're not selling yourself, you're selling your book. A query is a business letter and I like to keep it that way.