Friday, November 2, 2012

Queries, Part 1: Before You Query

So, you're ready to start querying agents or editors. Congratulations! This is a huge step. This is where your writing goes from "I want to do this" to "Now I'm going to prove it." (Of course, writing a whole manuscript is a pretty good sign, too.)

I've been on the query road before. I've made the mistakes, which include but aren't limited to, querying too early, not getting feedback (from other writers or a mentor) before I queried, and not doing my research as well as I should have. The list could go on.

Which means today, and for the next few posts, I'm going to share some knowledge with you that I, and others, have learned along the way.

What should you do before you query?

Finish Your Manuscript

Yes, agents and editors will expect this (unless you're multi-published already, which most of us aren't). They want to know you can finish a manuscript. They want to know you've put time into it and didn't just jot off a rough draft and start sending. Make sure your manuscript is finished! (And don't forget to celebrate, because that in itself is a wonderful accomplishment!)

Polish Your Pages

Agents get dozens of queries a day. Or more! They're inundated with queries and partials and even fulls. And YOU might only get one chance to impress them, at least with this particular manuscript. So make the most of it! Get feedback on your story. Polish. At the VERY least, make sure your first chapter is as good as you can get it. You might need to send in some of these pages with your query.

Research, Research, Research!

There's a lot of research that can be done before you query. Research agents and research queries. When I say research agents, I mean find out who reps what you write. Find out their guidelines. Hang out around their blog and learn from them. The more you know about what they want, the better chance you'll have of being able to give it to them.

And queries? Research those, too. If you're familiar with how to write a great query and it comes naturally, great! If not, check the agency guidelines first to make sure you're including any specifics they want. Then make sure your query is polished and don't hesitate to have a writer friend or someone who knows what they're doing look it over. It doesn't hurt to tweak your summary if it means the agent or editor might be more interested.

I know that's a lot of work to put into a query before you actually even write the thing, but it's worth it, trust me. If you're a knowledgeable query writer, agents will see that in your query, and anything to up your chances of an agent or editor being interested is good!

If you tune in for the next post in the series, we'll actually talk about writing the query and what to include. Yay!

How about you, do you prepare before you query? What advice would you give to newer writers ready to start searching for an agent?


Cindy is a Colorado native, living near the mountains with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes contemporary Christian romance, seeking to enrich lives with her stories of faith, love, and a touch of humor.

To learn more about Cindy, visit her at her personal blog,


Jill Weatherholt said...

Thank you for this post, Cindy. There is so much I have to learn about querying. I'm looking forward to your future posts, no doubt they will serve as a reference for me in the future.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Have other writers read your query before you send it out. Their feedback will help you in the polishing process of your query letter -- not just your story!

Great post!

Heather said...

Thank you for this great advice!

Jeanne T said...

This is helpful, Cindy. I haven't queried yet, but what you've shared makes sense. Research is key, especially for newbie query-letter writers! ;)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi, Jill! It seems like, as writers, the learning never stops, right? :) Thanks for stopping by!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Beth, having other writers read over your query is so invaluable. They have just the right perspective to help tweak and polish. Have a great weekend!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

You're welcome, Heather!

Jeanne, exactly right! Research is so important in so many steps of the writing process. We can learn a lot from other writers and agent/editor blogs and websites.