Been a while since I did a thread on anything, so since I’ve recently come out of the trenches… let’s talk about QUERYING.

Disclaimer: This thread is based on my personal experience (I am a cishet white woman), YMMV.

#amquerying #querytip
1. Should you query now, when the world is on fire?

In my experience: YES. (I started on the 11th Feb and formally accepted an offer at the beginning of May –– so during lockdown.)

Truth is, there is no good time to query.
Sometimes there’s a pandemic, or a holiday, or a book fair, or it’s vacation season, or PitchWars, or oh no it’s pitmad, or DVpit or NaNo or any # of other reasons agents are suddenly snowed under.

Query when you’re ready. If an agent is open to queries, assume they want them.
THAT SAID. If you are querying during say... [waves hands at the world]... be patient. Things might take longer than usual. Responses may come at weird times. Agents with a rep for offering feedback may no longer have time to do so. You might see more form rejections.
2. Research, research, research.

This can be hard without a network of writers around you or –– let’s be honest –– money. Query tracker is free, but not for the premium features. Publishers Marketplace is great, but $$$.
If you can, reach out to other querying writers ( #amquerying is a good place to find some, or try your writer mutuals) –– plenty would be happy to make some new friends to trade info with.

You can then split membership fees to these sites or look things up for each other.
Absolute Write is another great resource (free!), but my personal PRO TIP is: if you want a starting point for agent research, the #PitchWars showcase agent list is a great place to start building a list of agents/agencies to research. 

What I did is go through and look up the *agencies* listed (rather than just the individual agents), then I read up on *all* the agents there and found the best fit for my book.
3. Have a think about what YOU want from an agent before you query.

There is no one right answer here. Some writers only want a big gun, some would prefer a newer agent who is hungrier and might have more time for them. Some would prefer someone in the middle...
... and some would be happy with any of the above so long as the agent is at a reputable agency with good mentorship.

Your preferences are up to YOU. You do not have to explain them.

You DO need to be aware of how those decisions affect your chances and be okay with that.
EG: If your query list is only superstar agents with very full lists, understand that they’re probably far more selective. That’s likely to limit your chances.

Also, IMO, you’ll be closing a lot of doors on a lot of very good people.

Remember: new agent ≠ bad agent/schmagent.
Side note: when working up a query list, also remember that not every good agent is active on twitter, and just because someone is twitter famous, doesn’t mean they’re the right agent for you.

This is especially important for agencies that have a ‘only query one’ policy...
... because if your twitter fave at that agency doesn’t have the most compatible wishlist, you might be wasting your shot with that agency querying someone you LIKE on twitter vs the querying the agent that is a GOOD FIT for your work.
Speaking of good fit: some agents have comprehensive wish lists and give interviews and #MSWL tweets, some don’t. With some, I literally found myself thinking: okay… I think you rep… books? Maybe?
Where that’s the case (and assuming there is no obvious better fit at the agency), don’t self-reject. If they’re a good agent, with a good agency or good sales in your category/genre, give it a shot. The worst that’ll happen is you’ll get a rejection.
4. Mentally prepare yourself

I’m not going to sugar coat it: querying is awful. There is no malice in the process, but sheer volume makes it brutal all the same.
The silence wears on you.

The form rejections wear on you.

A request will give you one hell of a high, but a rejection will bring you crashing down even harder.

You will put more stock in rejections than requests.
You will read into the silence that follows a request despite the fact that long waits and no news are the norm for at least 3-6 months on partials/fulls.

If you’re lucky enough to get feedback, it will make you question whether EVERYONE will feel the same way.
This is all normal. Take a break if you need to. Publishing moves slow; there’s no harm in taking a week or two off and there is no certainly no need to burn through your entire list in a month.

There is NO rule that says if you don’t get an offer quickly, you’ll never get one.
5. Query in BATCHES.

This one is common wisdom for a reason –– because it’s so hard to know if your query/pages are working. I was all in on my first pages thanks to PitchWars, but I tweaked my query twice over the course of 2 months.
First, I workshopped it with my writing circle. Then I worked with a query editor after lacklustre results from my first two batches.
In the end, there are so many variables with querying that it’s hard to know what eventually did it, but what it did was force me to take breaks, wait for more data, try something new.

And if you DO get feedback between batches that you agree with, DO take the time to action it.
Don’t end up sitting on 100 rejections wishing you had taken the time to tweak and put your best foot forward.

Here seems a good place to add a note about fast responding agents: Query tracker has lists of those known to reply to queries/reply to them fast.
When testing the effectiveness of your query it can be really tempting to just send it out to those agents and (hopefully) get faster responses.

And while I certainly did this myself (to a degree), I’d urge you to be considered with it.
Make sure you research those agents the same as any other and target those who are a good fit rather than just ‘fast’. A no from a bad fit for your book isn’t as statistically relevant as a no from an agent looking for something just like it.
6. We talk about stats and request rates but at the end of the day, querying is a complete crapshoot

Should you WANT a high request rate on your queries? Well, duh.

But it really only takes one.
I had a much lower request rate than is usually considered ‘great’ (about 11% pre-offer, 16% overall), but once people actually got sucked into the work, my success rate was much higher (55% upgrade rate on partials, 35% offer rate).
For those who want solid numbers: 62 queries, 38 rejections, 10 fulls (from cold queries outside of PitchWars) and 5 offers total (some from PW, some from agents I queried).
So yeah… you can’t know how this’ll play out –– I had literally sent out a whole new batch of queries *the morning* I got my first offer because I was sure nothing was going to come of the ones I already had out.
But as long as you’re playing it smart, and considered, you can come away from the experience knowing you did everything you could.
7. Querying is SLOW until it’s not

I won’t lie, once you have an offer in hand things tend to… speed up. Queries get answered faster, your request rate can almost double overnight. You can go from no offers to multiple offers in a matter of days.

#amquering #querytip
But again, you can’t account for this. It’s pure luck whether the right agent for your work was in your first batch of queries, or the third. Whether they’re a fast or slow responder. Whether they read fulls quick, or they’re backlogged.

Lack of speed ≠ lack of enthusiasm.
Read that last part again and memorise it. Agents can’t offer on something they haven’t read yet. And more often than not, they haven’t read it because TIME.
(Exception: there are some agents who prioritise work they’re excited about, but also those who read in order. Unless you know for a fact how an agent works, don’t drive yourself bonkers by trying to guess.)
Okay… this thread is now so long you’ve probably finished querying by now, so I’m going to leave it there.

Go forth and query, writers! And may the odds be ever in your favour!
You can follow @TheKateDylan.
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