Querying advice from a writer who still doesn't have an agent but has a lot of thoughts, a little time, and a lot of waiting anxiety that wants to be channelled into something productive...

A Thread

#AmQuerying #AmWriting #WritingCommunity #AmEditing
1) Querying requires patience. Lots of patience. ENDLESS patience.

Those who know me know that this is definitely not one of my naturally strongest qualities, but both with my day job and with querying, I've had to develop it. Anyone can do it, it just takes practice.
Having friends and querying peers who can listen to your complaints helps, too. It stops you from posting on social media every time you feel like the waiting is going to kill you, and it gives you someone to remind you that you can do this.

Cause you can. I promise.
2) You won't necessarily know when your book is actually ready, and that's okay.

One of the most common but least helpful pieces of advice I got when I first started out was to "not query before your book is ready."

"But how do you KNOW when it's ready?" I kept asking.
The truth? Sometimes, you don't.

It takes practice to know, and it takes trial and error. I truly believed a previous book of mine was ready to query, and in a lot of ways, it was! It had some great elements. But now that I have more time and distance, I see how it wasn't.
This is an incredibly subjective, squishy industry and you are always improving the more you right. That means that many of your past things that felt ready won't still feel that way in time.

But that isn't an excuse not to start somewhere.
Sometimes if you've had beta readers and revisions you just have to call it at some point and say "I'm going to do this because I have to start some time and I have to start somewhere."

And maybe it'll turn out you were ready. Maybe it won't. Either way, it'll be okay.
I know it feels scary that you might miss your one shot with your "dream agent," but here's another secret for ya... You probably have more than one "dream agent" out there. You just don't realize it until you research more.
3) Have a ritual for when you get a rejection. Whatever is going to help you most in a non-destructive way. Some people like to collect things like beads, some like to do crafts with rejections, and I like to always send a new query to a new agent to replace the old one.
That ritual works for me because it's a non-stressful way to manage my anxiety. It gives me something productive to do about the rejection. That being said, it's absolutely not the best thing for all. Find a way to reward or comfort or celebrate rejections. You'll need it.
4) In a similar vein, find a way to celebrate your successes. Every request is huge. Every bit of personalized feedback is huge. Cherish them as the gifts of time that they are, make note of which agents and agencies are giving them, and feel good about where you are.
A full request does NOT equal an offer. It's sad but true. And I'll tell you--they sting more than regular queries to me, because you've invested more of yourself into them.

Even so, they are a step closer to your goals. CELEBRATE. Hold onto the good feelings.
5) Follow agents on Twitter and social media (but not in a creepy way).

You can learn SO MUCH if you can find the right corners of Twitter to keep an eye on.
By following agents (as well as editors and authors) on Twitter you can glimpse what life in your (hopefully future) industry is like. You can see the conversations that are happening in real time in your genres, the mistakes being made, and the progress, too.
You can also see things like #MSWL posts and follow agent-led chats like #AskAgent sessions that happen semi-spontaneously or ongoing advice from sources such as #TheWritersZen or @printrunpodcast.
Just make sure you aren't the guy who follows & Twitter stalks an agent the moment you query them, then runs away forever the moment you get a rejection. It's a pretty awkward interaction, and you're missing out on valuable information & insights.
Also, agents are, you know, people, and in my experience they're some pretty fun people to follow because when it's not book talk, it's pet photos or writing-related woes that they share, so there's really no reason but misplaced hurt feelings to unfollow that way.
6) Which brings me to my next point. Agents are people.

They are underpaid, overworked, and generally under appreciated by everyone but (I hope) their clients and coworkers. Humans don't love rejections, and agents have to send thousands of them. Be kind. Always.
These are book nerds with just as much (if not more) passion for the written word as you have. They are often also writers and personally understand the frustrations of querying from both sides.

They have the same 24 hours in a day as the rest of us. They're doing their best.
7) You will learn as you query.

Sure, you see those success stories about people who have seemingly overnight written a book, queried five people, and BAM--agent.

Don't assume it'll be you. It probably won't.
Instead treat your querying as if you're conducting an experiment. Start out cautiously. Figure out what works. Send out a handful of queries and see if any come back with requests. Try another. If still no, revisit your query and run it past some people. Is something missing?
If you're getting requests but not offers, is the feedback consistent or contradictory?

For one manuscript I literally got the feedback from one agent that they loved everything but the voice, and from another agent on the same book they said they loved only the voice.
This obviously isn't usable feedback in isolation. That's not a consensus. They may be nothing wrong with the voice, and it just wasn't for that one agent. OR the voice may be off-putting and the one agent just really liked it. It's impossible to tell from those two alone.
However, on my book that I queried too early, I got close, but all of my fulls came back with consistent notes of advice. They're things that in retrospect seem obvious, but there's a reason hindsight is everything.

And you know what? It's all advice I'm using to revise.
Know that not all feedback is useful to you, and that's okay. You don't even have to agree with all feedback. But you should read it and listen to it still. You should make sure to take it in with an open mind and not get defensive. Someone took the time to help you. That's huge.
8) You will make mistakes. It's okay.

You'll email someone who is closed to queries by accident, or misread a guideline, or paste in your form letter with the wrong name in it. It'll happen at some point. It might even lead to a rejection. But it'll pass. We're human, too.
Most agents that I've seen have said that they obviously aren't impressed by mistakes, but they won't turn away a manuscript because of something silly like a typo.

Take a deep breath and remember that we're all trying our best.
9) Comps are... weird.

Someday I'll write a whole post just about Twitter contests, but just know that the way comps are used on pitch contests like #PitMad and the way they're used in queries is not always a good comparison.
On Twitter you have only a couple characters to make yourself stand out from literally thousands of other similar pitches. You use big, flashy comps to draw attention. You pull in people's favorite fandoms and authors to gain fans.

That doesn't work in queries.
Read agent recommendations on comps closely. They pretty much all universally tell you to avoid huge names like Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, etc. and many don't want you to use TV or movies at all.
In queries comps are often meant to show that you know the marketplace and understand what has recently been selling in your genre. It's not about hyping your book so much as SELLING your book. It's a step they'll later have to do as agents, so if you do it well, it's a step up.
(Full disclosure: I am TERRIBLE at comps because I always want to explain them and why they make sense in my head. I'm always afraid the agents won't get it and that I'll somehow lie about my book unintentionally.

Just remember--with all things do your best. That's it.)
10) You need more than a query and a synopsis prepared before you start querying.

I'd say about half of agents use QueryManager now, and many of those tend to have extra required elements.
This may include: a 1-2 page synopsis (most prefer 1 page), a list of comp BOOK titles, a one line pitch of your book, a one paragraph pitch of your book, who your target audience is, and a separate bio space (outside your query). I'd prepare all of this before you start.
I'll leave you with this...

Querying is exhausting and hard and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, but it's worth it to see all of the people who finally "make it." Find your support system. Figure out a way to cope. Most of all? Don't give up.
Thanks for reading, and if anyone is interested in future topics like this I'm around and happy to do more.

Now remember...
You can follow @Anna_Wenner.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: