June 6, 2011

Queries and Submissions Part I

 To start off the week of guest posts and interviews on the querying and submission process, I have the lovely Anne Gallagher of Piedmont Writer here. Thanks for contributing, Anne! Let's jump right in.

NOTE: Forgive the formatting. Word doesn't like to play nice with Blogger.

    1.     Where did you learn to write such fantastic query letters?  
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. 
   7.     Do you have a limit to how many queries you submit at one time or how many agents   
 make it to your list?  
Because I write in two different genres (romance and women's fiction) I tend to have the same list for all of my books.  And because my romance is actually Regency romance, the list is even shorter.  I have roughly around 35 agents currently.
   8.     Do you submit your queries all at once or pepper them throughout the process?  
I make 3 lists of agents.  A B & C.  A's are the agents I want to have dinner with.  B's are the agents I want to have lunch with.  And C's are the agents I want to have drinks with.  Although truthfully, because my list is so short, I would have dinner with any of them.  I then take 3 names from each A B & C, and send them out in rounds.  First round goes out, and when they come back rejected or requested, another query goes out so I always have 9 or 10 out at a time.
   9.     How long do you wait to hear back from an agent or publisher after waiting the allotted time per guidelines?  
If after 90 days I don't hear back from them, I call it a no.  No response to me means not interested.  Although I have to say, I did get a request for a partial last year after 6 months.  And I did get a partial request this year after 89 days.  So it is a waiting game and you can't be sure. 
   10.   How do you follow-up with those agents you haven’t heard from?  
I don't follow up on a query.  Ever.  I just let it go.  See #9.  The only time I ever follow up is on a partial or full request.  I find out the guidelines on the agents website, usually it's 90 days, and then I wait two weeks after that.  If I don't hear from them, I'll send a nudge note.  However, that can backfire too.  I was waiting on a partial, and sent the nudge note.  What I didn't know was the agent, had a fire at her home, and had a baby around the same time, and was trying to catch up with all her work.  My nudge note got me a form rejection.  If I had paid attention to what was going on in her life, perhaps I might be agented now.  You have to remember that agents are people too.

Hope you were able to learn something from Anne's process. I thoroughly enjoy talking to her about writing and she is always more than willing to help if you're stuck with queries. If you haven't already, head on over to her blog, The Piedmont Writer, to learn more about her and the amazing pitches she writes! 

Stop back here on Thursday for another insight into the process of querying and submission with published author, Carolyn Jewel!


  1. Anne, that's probably the most informed post I've ever seen on query letters and agents. And I approve of the word wonky!

  2. This was so detailed I was in love!!!! I can't wait for more rounds - which I'm hoping you'll do! You'll be on my Google reader for these because they're fantastic.

    My process is different but I love the A,B,C rule that Anne has. I think it's really a neat way to think about things and with the next book that I query (if needed) I'll definitely be taking that advice!

  3. Thanks Alex. I'm glad you approve of wonky.

    Thanks Jen. ABC is really the way to go.

  4. Lots of great tips here. AgentQuery also has forums where you can put up queries for critique, something I just began using. I think I've learned as much from critting other as getting feedback on my own stuff.

  5. Really great information here!!!

  6. ouch, only 35 agents? that stinks. Also i'm impressed you wait 90 days. I give them 60 (and in some cases less, if i check the data lanucher and see they've requested a bunch of submissions after mine, then i know mine was probably a no)

  7. This is all helpful information. Someday, I'll get there and then Anne, I may be asking you a lot of questions.

  8. I really liked your A, B, C advice. Great advice Anne.

    From Patti Nielson

  9. Thanks for stopping by everyone. And if you ever do need help, drop me a line.

  10. Ann,
    You did a great job of stressing what's important about the querying process. Checking out the potential agent's site can reveal a lot about the agent. You also are very patient in the amount of time you wait. This is the kind of information that writers, especially newbies, really need.

  11. Thanks Lisa. Comes from YEARS of querying.

  12. Great interview, Anne! Thanks for all the tips.

  13. Thanks so much for all your help, Anne. I appreciate you taking the time to do this post. I'm glad we were able to help so many writers!

  14. Fantastic post. Lots of helpful info in here. Thanks so much :)


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