When an agent accumulates nearly 40 years in all aspects of publishing, you expect them to have a few words to say. Nancy Coffey sure does. The founder of Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation maintains a blog giving writers a glimpse into an active literary agency.
Since many of us will be preparing queries for agents at some time, I thought I'd gather Coffey's wisdom on the subject.
Do your research. Even if querying seems years away for you, start compiling a list of agents who are interested in your genre or subject matter. If the agents blog, or are featured in interviews, narrow your list, keeping the names of agents who seem like people you'd love to work with. No matter how awesome an agent sounds, never send them a query for a genre they don't represent. Coffey shares her tips on how to research an agent, noting their "pattern of interest".
Study successful queries. Though a query is basically a one-page business letter, the debut authors who garner the interest of agents are those who spend weeks or months tweaking their queries until they're nearly perfect. Analyzing the elements of queries that got a positive response will help writers improve their own. Coffey shares some examples of great queries that will help.
Learn the parts of a good query. Did you know there's such a thing as the Killer Query Checklist? Find out if your query contains these must-haves. On the other hand, you don't want a query that shares too much. It's a balancing act.
For more on query letters, check out The Query Letter Demystified. Have you found some great resources for query letters?