How to Get a Literary Agent, Part 3: The Query Trenches

Congratulations! You know have both your well-researched list of agents as well as your query letter, ready to go. It’s now time to get in there and submit your queries to said agents, and hopefully one of them will turn out to be an offer.

There is a good method of submission, which is to take the middle ground: you don’t want to query your top ten list of agents all at once. You want to give time to see if your query works, and if your chapter is getting request. You must taste the waters first.

From that first list of agents you have compiled, make sure you select 30 to be your top thirty agents: the A-list, the B-list and the C-list. My preference was a combination of client’s work, sales, interviews, and me stalking through twitter and seeing what they liked.

Then you’re ready to send out queries.

  1. Make sure all queries are tailored to the agents you’re sending within that opening paragraph. It shows agents you’re professional and you’ve done all your research.
  2. Make sure to reread your query before sending. Catching typos and other things that are life savers.
  3. Read my post on querying tips that can be super helpful.

After you’ve done all this, you’re ready to open up your e-mail and start sending them off. I used the batch method myself — sent the queries in batches. Some people recommend contacting one person from the A-list, one from b-list, and one from C-list. If you’ve had relative success with your query and pages, then you can send out more queries.

For me, I used to send them in batches of ten. One from each list, and seven from my general list, at least for a start. Then I’d see how many requests I’d gotten, and tweak accordingly. One of the good things of sending queries in batches is that often you’ll get useful feedback from agents telling you how you can improve your novel. I’ve received many rejections, but some of them included valuable feedback to make my novel better.

Batches help keeping you busy — when I had about five or six rejections from that batch, I sent out one more batch of ten queries to other agents, using the same method. When I started finally getting all requests from dream agents, I sent it to all of my top ten list.

The query trenches can be miserable, but they can also be great. It’s hard having your work out there and getting rejections, but remember: you only need one yes.

Tune in for the next post in the series, where I talk about getting the call!