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Querying

The Querying Process

Sometimes it feels like your query letter will never be ready, but once it is, you need a strategy for the querying process.

giphy (1)

Who should you query? What approach do you take? How do you keep track?

Step 1 – Research and Make a List

There are A LOT of agents out there, and just as many ways to find them. Start by making a list of ones you’re interested in.

Here are a few resources that can help:

- AgentQuery.com
- QueryTracker.net
- Lit Rejections
- Writer's Digest's Guide To Literary Agents
- Agents of authors you like (check the Acknowledgements).

 

Step 2 – Research (More) and Evaluate

Once you have a list of agents you’re interested in subbing to, it’s important to make sure they’re a good match. Often (not always) you can only submit to one agent per agency, so you want to pick the agent you think is the best fit for you and your work.

What genres does the agent represent? Have they represented books you like? Are they an editorial agent? Are they active on social media?

Some of this stuff is vital – you don’t want to sub to an agent who doesn’t represent your genre – and some of it’s preference. You may not need an editorial agent, or it may be a deal breaker.

Here are some resources to get to know agents:

- Interviews:
  - Literary Rambles
  - Michelle4Laughs
- Manuscript Wishlist
- Their agency website bios.
- Their personal websites and blogs.
- Their social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, etc).

 

Step 3 – Get Organized

Now that you know which agents you want to submit to, prepare for your inbox to become a war zone – you’re about to get a lot of emails.

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Confirmations, rejections, requests for more material – you need a way to organize it all.

There are a lot of different strategies here – setup folders, hand write a list – but the one that worked well for me was setting up an Excel spreadsheet.

Here’s an idea of what it looked like:

Excel

As you can see, I created 3 sections: Top Tier, Second Tier, Third Tier. These categories essentially referred to dream agents vs. people I’d be ecstatic to work with but aren’t at the absolute top of my list.

Do not query an agent you wouldn’t be happy to work with. You may not be able to tell this until they’ve made an offer and you’ve talked to them, but use the resources above and your best judgement to decide.

Then I kept track of everything from whether I’d already submitted to them to if they represented any clients whose work I loved.

Once I started querying, I only had to fill in the boxes.

 

Step 4 – Time to Query… Slowly

You know who you want to query, you’re organized and ready to go – now it’s time to query! Just not everyone at once.

Send your query out in batches. About 5-10 each round. Pick a couple top tier, middle tier, and third tier agents from your list and send out your first round of queries.

Why? Because it lets you test the waters.

Got 10 form rejections in a row? Maybe your query needs some work.

Getting partial requests that are later rejected? Something’s probably not working in the early chapters.

Sending your queries out in batches lets you get feedback from agents and get an idea of what’s working and what’s not.

And with that, I leave you with one final, absolutely vital piece of advice:

Always, always, always follow the agency guidelines. 

Check the agency website, make sure you’re following the guidelines for the specific agent you’ve chosen (they differ from the agency as a whole sometimes!) and triple check you’ve followed them before you click send.

You’ve worked hard on your book; you don’t want an automatic pass because of a simple querying mistake.

Good luck!

Querying

Deconstructing Writing My Query

Congrats – you wrote thousands and thousands of words in a comprehensible order with cool characters and a kickass plot, and now you’re ready to send it to some agents.

Now all you have to do is distill those thousands of words into ~250 words. No big deal.

giphy

There are a lot of great resources out there about writing queries, so what I want to focus on is how I applied those tips and tricks to writing my own query.

There are 3 main parts to a query:

  • The Hook: includes your books stats, like the title and genre.
  • The Body: the story; what happens and why it matters.
  • Your Bio: who are you and why are you qualified to write this book.

I’ll break down each piece of it below, using my query as an example.

Here’s my query:

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 5.12.35 AM

 

The Hook

The Hook should ALWAYS include the:

  • Title
  • Genre (Fantasy, Crime, etc)
  • Age category (Young Adult, Middle Grade, etc)
  • Word count

It can optionally include:

  • Comps
  • A quick snippet about why you’re querying the agent.

There are a lot of opinions about whether the Hook should go at the start or end of a query. The most important determining factor is whether an agent specifies a preference.

Research the agents you plan to sub to. Look for interviews they’ve done. A lot of times agents will talk about preferences that they don’t mention in their agency guidelines because they’re not required, just preferred. Some like the Hook at the start, some at the end.

Some even have preferences about what’s included in the Hook, such as a personalization.

Here are 2 great resources for agent interviews:
- Michelle4Laughs
- Literary Rambles

If an agent doesn’t have a preference, then it’s up to you. If you have a strong Hook and it’s vital to giving the agent context about your story or you’re including a strong personalization, lead with the Hook. If you’re just reporting the basic stats, maybe put it at the end.

My hook mattered to me because I was subbing to agents interested in strong female friendships, so I put it at the front. I also wanted the agent to know they were reading a Fantasy query right off the bat.

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 11.04.35 AM

The Body

For me, Step 1 for drafting the body of my query was putting together an outline of my book. What are the major things that happen in each chapter? This is also really helpful for writing a synopsis. From there, I looked for the ways each of those big events fit into the overarching storyline.

Queries are a delicate balance of setting the scene and looking ahead. What happened, what is happening, and what’s going to happen?

For my story, these events set the scene:

  • The Crows are destroyed.
  • Ana’s mother is killed.

What’s happening (the problem) is an enemy kingdom is threatening them and they must respond. At the same time, she’s engaged to the prince and finds the Crow egg.

Looking ahead, she must now hatch the egg to stop her engagement and protect her kingdom.

Step 2 was identifying the stakes. I cannot express enough how important it is to have clear, identifiable stakes in your query. What will happen if your MC fails? Why does any of what’s happening matter?

Really this is just a part of the looking ahead bit, but I separated it out because it’s a common mistake to underemphasize the stakes.

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 11.09.44 AM

Some tips for the actual writing of the Body:

  • Introduce your MC quickly. For MG and YA, be sure to include your protagonist’s age.
  • Do not write in 1st person, even if your book is in 1st person.
  • Avoid as many names as possible. Try to stick to your MC and maybe 1 more.
  • Avoid as many world-specific proper nouns as possible. Especially avoid ones that require additional explanation.
    • This doesn’t mean don’t include them. Clearly I have Crows, riders, and Illucia. Just limit the number!
  • Stay close to or beneath 250 words. Clear, concise.
  • End with the stakes: clear and concise.

 

Your Bio

This part is much more subjective. Your bio is anything that qualifies you to write the story you’re querying.

It can include:

  • University degrees
  • Previous publications
  • Contests you’ve won
  • Other writing related experience
  • Genre-specific experience
    • For example, are you an ex-cop writing a crime novel? A doctor whose MC is a doctor?

Keep this section brief and to the point.

In Conclusion

Everything here is framed in the context of how I wrote my query using generalized rules I learned through research and experience.

That all said, these aren’t hard and fast rules.

There are queries that bend and break these rules artfully, and are all the better for them. But these are certainly a good place to start when you’re first developing your query. For me, having a solid base makes adding originality easier.

In the end, do what works for you, and hopefully these guidelines can help you along the way.

Happy querying!

Godspeed

How I Got My Agent

How I Got My Agent (Part 2)

Last week, I wrote about the still slightly unbelievable day I got an offer of representation for my book, THE STORM CROW.

Still unbelievable nearly nine months and a book deal later because, honestly, I’m not sure this will ever feel real.

unbelivable

After receiving my first offer of representation, I got to send some of the most exciting emails of my life, all titled:

OFFER OF REPRESENTATION: THE CROW QUEEN

(THE CROW QUEEN being my book’s original title.)

Which made my Inbox an utter mess of confusion, but was also super exciting!

Once you’ve received an offer of rep, you get to tell every other agent who has your manuscript (full or partial) or query about it. For those of you who may be in this situation, here’s the general template I followed:

For agents with my QUERY:

Dear AGENT NAME,

I realize you may not have seen my query yet, but I wanted to 
reach out as I've been offered representation by another agent. 
If BOOK TITLE seems like something you'd be interested in, 
please let me know. I plan to give the offering agent an answer 
by DATE.

If not, no worries, and thank you very much for your time!

Best,
CONTACT INFO
+ Insert personalized query you sent them below for reference
Honestly, you can probably come up with something better than ‘no worries,’ but I digress.
Also, I totally don’t mind if you want to steal this template. Go for it.

 

For agents with my MANUSCRIPT (full or partial):

Dear AGENT NAME,

Thank you for your interest in BOOK TITLE. I've received 
an offer of representation, and I've told the offering 
agent that I'll give them an answer by DATE. If you are 
also interested, could you please let me know?

Best,
CONTACT INFO

Agents will either respond with a pass or ask to see the full manuscript. A couple things to consider here:

  1. Only do this if the agent who offered you representation is someone you’d like to work with (after you’ve had a call with them, which I’ll talk about in a bit). Do NOT use an offer from an agent you wouldn’t work with to nudge other agents. Many agents will pass because they don’t have the time to read your manuscript in the short window you’ve likely given, and it’s also not fair to the offering agent.
  2. Similarly, only send the above email to agents who you’d be equally as interested in working with as the offering agent. Hopefully you didn’t submit to any agents you already know you wouldn’t want to work with, but take time to think about this. You don’t want to make busy people put aside time for you if you’re not going to truly consider them!

I received several more requests to read my manuscript after that. A lot of these agents didn’t get back to me by my deadline. If that happens, that’s okay. Focus on the responses you do get!

Here’s where things got a little weird for me. The agent who made an offer didn’t set a date for me to get back to her by. Essentially, she let me set one myself. At that same time, I had completed an R&R for another agent.

R&R stands for Revise & Resubmit.

Also known as YesNo, Not Quite There but Almost, This is Really Good BUTTTT, and Heartsplosion (a combination of heartbreak and explosion from excitement.)

 

It’s where an agent really liked your book, but they have some suggestions and would like to see the manuscript again after you’ve incorporated them. Which you should definitely only do if you agree with the edits! Don’t waste your time or theirs.

Since the agent I’d completed the R&R for was someone I was interested in working with, I went ahead and sent it along. Then, once I’d decided on a date to tell agents about my offer, I sent her another email informing her of the offer.

3 days later I got a second offer of rep.

When I let the R&R agent know about my offer, she prioritized reading my updated manuscript. 4 days later, she made me an offer too. Somehow, I had to chose between several amazing agents.

omg

When you receive an offer of rep, the first thing that will probably happen is you’ll freak out for a while.

Elf

The second thing is you’ll get on a call with the agent. I recommend preparing by creating a list of questions you want to ask the agent.

Here are a couple websites whose posts on this subject really helped me:

Literary Rambles
Rachelle Gardner

Really though, Google any variation of “Questions to ask a literary agent before representation” and spend some time browsing the results. It’s also worth looking up common questions literary agents will ask you on the call. Here’s a quick reference for that:

Carly Watters

Other things I recommend you do are:

  1. Ask to speak to some of the agent’s current clients. The agent will likely give you a list of emails for authors you can contact and question.
  2. Ask to see their standard agency agreement to make sure you’re comfortable with what you’d be signing if you went with them.
  3. Email them with any additional questions you come up with. Forgot something major during your call? Don’t hesitate to reach out. This is an important decision and agents understand that you want all the details.

I also suggest you take notes during the call, as well as compile important details from the above suggestions. That way, you can use them to compare later if you receive multiple offers of rep.

Which sounds like a dream, and in a lot of ways it is, but it was also one of the most stressful and difficult decisions I’ve ever made.

With additional offers from two agents I would have loved to work with, the choice took me a while. Even after asking them all my questions, talking to their current authors, and researching absolutely everything I could about them, I couldn’t decide.

In the end, I did exactly what all the posts like this one I’d read told me to do: I trusted my gut. I went with Carrie (the R&R agent!), because I’d seen her editing approach and the way she understood my book, and I felt comfortable with her because of that.

On top of all the other stuff of course. Clients, sales, phone call, etc. Consider everything!!

However, I can honestly say that I truly believe I would have been happy with any of the three offering agents, because they all seemed amazing based on my calls with them.

Once I’d signed with Carrie, I completed the most important step of this process: I celebrated.

I ate more ice cream than is probably good for me, went to dinner with my friends and family, and tried not to hide under the table when they attempted to tell every stranger we passed.

But seriously, don’t forget to celebrate! You’ve done something amazing and you deserve it.

Excited
How I Got My Agent

How I Got My Agent (Part 1)

I’ve always wanted to write this post. Not only because it would mean I have an agent, but because reading these stories from other authors inspired me to keep trying.

I hope I can do the same for someone else.

When I sat down to plan this post out, I realized I had a thousand more people to thank than I thought. Because this journey did not begin with THE STORM CROW and end with my wonderful agent.

It began when as a kid, I wrote a Scooby-Doo story that my mother told me was wonderful.

It began when she stayed up late with my brother and me, reading Harry Potter.

It began when I said, “I want to be a writer.” And no one in my family laughed, or said any of the thousand variations of, “But you’ll need a real job, too.”

And much more recently, it began when I wrote an absolutely horrible book about a city full of every magical creature you could possible imagine and absolutely no plot.

I learned from it, though. I learned to write descriptions through my character’s point of view, and how to pace a novel. I learned good characters don’t always do good things, and that fifty different types of magical creatures was maybe too much (still TBD, honestly). I learned to write a query, and how to query, and what it feels like when someone rejects something you’ve worked so very hard on.

I learned not to give up.

My first book received 100% rejections. I don’t have the stats on it and I don’t want them. All that matters is that when I began my second book, I had learned so much.

My second book – one I truly hope to publish one day – got me into the contest, Pitch to Publication. I worked with a wonderful editor named Melissa-Jane Fogarty, who helped me improve it immensely.

This time I learned about point of view, and voice, and the way you can play with information with multiple POV characters. I learned to build a world with rules that shape the plot and characters, and I learned how to love my own writing.

Between PitchtoPublication, and a few PitMad hearts, I received a few full and partial requests, as well as an offer from a small pub that I ultimately passed on. Because somewhere inside, I knew this story wasn’t ready. That I wasn’t ready.

Around then, I was completing my senior year of college. My final quarter, I took a creative writing class. My professor assigned us a writing prompt: turn a fairy tale on its head. So was born my third manuscript, a twisted retelling of Little Red Riding hood with some Redcap mythology thrown in.

This is another book I hope to revisit one day. In it, I put together everything I’d learned from my previous two books and wrote something I was genuinely proud of. So when I got into another contest, this time FicFest, I really thought this was the book. After several full requests, some from absolute dream agents, I really thought this was the book.

But in the end, each of them rejected the full, and for what felt like the thousandth time, I considered giving up.

Then I read a story about a little girl who fed her neighborhood crows. They brought her gifts in return. I’d always loved crows, and I loved that story. So I wrote one of my own, a strange little flash fiction about a girl trapped in a tower and the crows that brought her the world.

Somehow, I got from that little story to a book, originally titled THE CROW QUEEN.

Determined to make it farther this time, I hired an editor in Elizabeth Buege, whose services were incredibly helpful. When I entered PitchtoPublciation, four editors asked to read more. In the end, I got to work with the freaking awesome Kyra Nelson, who helped me tear apart my book and put it back together again.

Unfortunately, the contest didn’t have the most exciting end. Few agents participated in the agent round, but I still managed three full requests! This time, I knew something had to come of it. I felt it.

Once I’d sent out the requested fulls, I started querying. I got a full request. And then another. And another.

Ultimately, I sent out 55 queries. I received:

  • 9 full requests (before notifying about my offer of rep).
  • 5 partial requests.
  • 1 partial request that became a full that became an R&R (Revise and Resubmit).

And then on March 21st, 2017, I received an offer of representation.

It happened while I was at work. I stared speechless at my computer long enough that my friend asked what was going on, and all I could do was point at the email. By the time she’d congratulated me and I’d explained what was happening to everyone around me, I was shaking.

I went outside and called my mom.

She said she knew I would be a writer from the day I wrote that Scooby-Doo story.

And now I am.

Because of these people who believed in me and in my writing. Because of the people who gave me the courage to believe in myself.

Because I didn’t give up, and if you’re reading this, I hope you never do either.

Keep fighting.

Keep writing. Every word is another step forward.

You can do this.

 

More Information:
- Elizabeth Buege Editing Services
- Kyra Nelson Editing Services
- Also recommend Rebecca Faith Editorial
Uncategorized

Welcome

Hi all!

Now that my writing career is a real thing and not a daydream, I’ve created a website, which gave me an excuse to start this blog. So welcome!

Hopefully you’re here because you stumbled across something related to my writing, but for those who don’t know, my name is Kalyn and I write Young Adult Fantasy novels about badass girls, sarcasm, and animals that aren’t quite what they seem. Usually cats.

My first novel, THE STORM CROW, is forthcoming from Sourcebooks, and I’m incredibly excited to share it with you guys!

SOOOOOOOOLD

Unsurprisingly, it has a badass sarcastic heroine and crows with elemental powers, but it also deals with difficult issues like depression and moving forward after painful events.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to create a series of blog posts about how I got my agent, the querying process, being on submission, and what comes after. I will also be putting up book reviews, links to tips and tricks of the trade, updates about my books and writing, and probably more pictures of my cats than you really need.

El 2
El (short for Angel, or El Diablo, depending on who you ask)

 

Thank you to everyone who helped get me to where I am. Without you, I’d never have been able to convince myself that I needed a website and a blog, and would probably still be spending my time doing something silly like actually writing.

But really, thank you! Here’s another cat picture because I don’t know how to end a blog post:

Snags
Snags