As my last post pointed out, in September of this year, I attended a writing seminar and came away from it with some great new knowledge about my writing and the process of querying agents in general. I shared some of that with you in my last post and wanted to share some other information from that seminar to finish out this post. Below are more nuggets of knowledge I learned from the seminar.
1. When querying agents, it is recommended to send out in batches of 8-10 and then wait 6-8 weeks between rounds. In my experience, I have had responses the same day I sent in my submission and some that take close to 6 weeks. About half never respond.
2. Make sure to include comps in your query and make sure the comps are for books that have been published in the past 5 years but more in the 2-3 year range if possible. Do not use big blockbuster books as comps (Harry Potter, etc.). When using comp titles, make sure you have either read the books or at least the first 3 chapters to make sure they’re appropriate for your comps. Figure out why you are using those titles as comps – is it for the style of writing, the theme, similar characters, or something else? Try using 2 different comp titles from the same genre you are writing.
3. Query vs. Synopsis: Query is a brief paragraph that intends to hook the reader without revealing the ending, similar to a book jacket summary. The synopsis describes the whole story by summarizing the plot points, including the ending. The query should be about 300 words where the synopsis is a full-page but can bleed over into a second if need be.
4. If you have past published writings, list the most significant ones (3-4) in your bio and let them know there are more. Have links on your website and social media as part of your bio and let them know more info can be found on your website.
5. Prologues are not viewed as favorable. If it is used correctly, some agents will read them but many others are wary of them. You may think, if you use a prologue, you are only doing that because it is a necessity but the agent may not see it that way. The prologue usually stands outside of the time of the actual story. Some authors use them because they can include something exciting that happens later in the story. We need to hook the audience from the start and a prologue seems to be an easy way to do this. Problem is that your first chapter has to do the same so the prologue is not replacing that aspect. If you can avoid using one, do it.
6. It’s not a bad idea to make a personal connection with an agent when querying. If you had met them or pitched them at a conference, mention it. If you have read an interview with them or read a book by an author they represent, it can’t hurt to mention it. Not saying that will open a door but having a more personal connection may prompt them to read more of your query.
7. Don’t be limited by only soliciting online queries but make pitches at conferences and on Twitter. An opportunity can crop up anywhere so be ready and willing to try different platforms to pitch your work. The more eyes on your work, the better chance of it getting picked up.
That’s the gist of it. I do recommend joining one of these bootcamps to get your questions answered and your work critiqued by a real working agent. The bootcamps are not free but, in my opinion, are worth the money if it means improving the quality of your manuscript, query letter, synopsis, or bio. It could mean the difference between rejection and a request for your manuscript.
Happy reading, happy writing!