To Query or Not to Query? That is the Question

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 I’ve been chronicling my writing journey, and in previous blog posts talked about how and why I decided to become a writer (How It All Began ), why I decided to write a vampire novel (I Decided to Write a Vampire Book. Now What? ), and how I went about writing The Descendant and the lessons I learned along the way (I Decided to Write a Book.  Now What? ). Now it was time to publish my book.

Six short months after putting pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keyboard), I had what I thought was a completed manuscript. I had read and reread the manuscript so many times and was so confident in my self-editing skills (remember I said this was an EPIC mistake? It was…more to come on that in a future blog post) that I just knew my manuscript was ready for the next step. I couldn’t wait to share The Descendant with the world, and I knew the world couldn’t wait to read it.

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What was my next step? I hadn’t a clue really. For six months, I was wrapped up in writing my book that I hadn’t thought much about the publishing process. I assumed, mistakenly so, that I would send my book directly to publishers. I turned to the Internet for help.

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The Internet is definitely a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. What do I mean? There’s so much information out there that it can be overwhelming. And beyond that, not all of the information you find is good information, but there’s no way of knowing that at the time.

My research yielded a lot of information. First, I learned that you could publish a book different ways, namely traditional publishing or self-publishing. I had never heard of self-publishing before and after some quick research, decided that I’d try my hand at traditional publishing.

In order to be traditionally published, you first have to sign with a literary agent. Have you ever heard of a literary agent? I sure as heck hadn’t! Literary agents are essentially the gatekeepers to the traditional publishing houses. You have to query an agent, if they like what they read then they’ll agree to represent you, and then they pitch your book to publishers in the hopes of landing a publishing contract.

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I then did a whole bunch of research on how to query agents. At a minimum, every agent requires a query letter. Those two words – query letter – to me, are the most dreaded words in the English language. A query letter is a 1-page letter consisting of 3 paragraphs, the first being an intro explaining why you are querying that agent. The second paragraph is a summary of your book. It’s a lot of fun trying to summarize 85,000 words into 5 sentences or less. Can you hear my sarcasm? And the third paragraph provides information on the book’s genre, word count, etc.

After that, each agent’s requirements are different. Some agents want a synopsis, which can be either 1 or 2 pages or a specific word count that summarize the entire book. Other agents want to see the first 5, 10, or 20 pages of your novel. No matter the requirement, one thing was guaranteed – every query package I put together was different, therefore the querying process was time consuming. I would spend an entire evening after work putting together one package.

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Now armed with this information, I resumed my Internet search to learn how to format all of these documents. Remember when I said the Internet can be bad in that not all information is good information? Well I learned this the hard way.

I was overwhelmed with the amount of info I had found on how to format my submissions. I went with recommendations from a site that seemed reputable. What would have really helped me at this point was if I had a network of other author friends who I could ask these sorts of questions. But I didn’t have that network at that time, so I went with what I found.

I then did more research and identified agents who I thought would be interested in my work. One of those agents was the woman who represented Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight novels. Looking back now, I chuckle at that submission. That poor agent probably received a query letter from everyone and anyone who had written a vampire novel at that time. I reviewed each agent’s submission requirements, careful compiled my submission packages, sealed the envelopes and shipped them off.

Then the waiting game began….

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll talk about the responses I received from agents.

I’d love to hear from you. Are you an author and have you queried agents? What was your experience? Or have you searched the Internet and used information that you thought was good only to find out it wasn’t?

Leave a comment below.