Writing Goals for 2011: Part 3- Your Personalized Query Plan

Each Monday in January, we're focusing on different goals for writing. If you've missed the previous installments, here are some links:

Today's focus is on queries. You may not feel ready to query yet, but to keep on top of all the details, it's a good idea to begin preparations a year ahead, if possible. A little work now will make the process far less stressful down the road.

I've broken the steps down into a timeline.Don't worry if you've got less time--querying can be done faster if you're ready.

One year out. At this point you're still writing your manuscript, but you feel confident you'll be done within about six months. 

1. Take some time each day to begin researching agents. Read their blogs (if they have them) and note which ones represent your genre or niche. Sites like AgentQuery and QueryTracker can help you narrow them down.

2. Seek out an online or in-person critique group, and get your manuscript critiqued.You'll learn so much that the rest of your novel will be stronger.

3. Keep working on your craft: always have a book on writing that you're working through (some great suggestions here), and try to attend any workshops or conferences you can, whether in person or online.

4. Don't stop writing until your manuscript is finished. You won't be able to query at all until it's done.

Six months out. Your manuscript is finished, but not necessarily polished. You have a list of potential agents. Where do you go from here? Is it time to query now? 

1. Using a spreadsheet or paper, make a chart of the agents you're interested in, listing their agency, email, preferred method of query (either email or snail mail), and what they request as part of a query. Double-check that your preferred agents are still with their agency--this is a constantly shifting business, and it's up to you to keep track of where people work.

2. Have your manuscript critiqued again, perhaps by a different critique group, or hire a professional editor, if finances allow.

3. Begin drafting your query letter, and bring it to your critique group for feedback.Here's a link to formatting an email query.

4. Format a synopsis, since some agents will ask for this.Have your critique group check this, also.

Three months out. You're feeling ready, probably itching to hit the send button. There are a few more things to do.

1. Consider setting up a website or blog if you don't already have a web presence. Many agents like to "check out" potential authors they're interested in. 

2. See if you can find some beta readers to give you overall feedback on your novel. It really helps if these are people you don't have a relationship with. Your friends and family will be impressed that you wrote a book, and won't be able to be as objective as strangers. Take their comments and make any necessary changes.

3. Take a little time to study query do's and don'ts. Here are a few links to get you started.
Five questions to ask yourself before querying. 
Tips from twenty agents to make your query shine.
A list of don'ts from SlushPileHell.

Time to release your query. If you're prepared, this should be the easy part--except for your nervousness!

1. Make a plan for sending your query. This article gives a plan for getting a 75% response rate to your query. Find out about the best and worst times to query.

2.  Check again that your target agents are still at the agency you have listed. Send your query in batches, a handful at a time, spaced a few weeks apart. Keep track (on your spreadsheet) of what you sent to each agent, the date, and their response. Note that agents who pass on your work may not respond at all. Don't take it personally, they're just too busy to reply to each query. When an agent does respond, send what they ask promptly.

3. If you're thinking of revising your query and resending to your target agents, read this first.

Where are you in the query process?


  1. This is a great plan, and I'm happy to say I've done most of it. I'm now at the final stages of polishing my manuscript. After this, it's query time. Thanks for the great tips. I will definitely make a plan before I send out my first ever batch of queries. :)

  2. What an accomplishment! I'd love to hear how the querying goes. Hopefully, I'll be working on that later this year.


  3. Amazing advice, and great links. I never heard of the "bad times to query." Thanks for putting all this together.

  4. I know, that was news to me, too. It's so nice that others share their wisdom!


  5. What a great way to plan ahead! I think this is a good way for writers working on a larger project to keep their momentum during the writing process. In my case, I'm working on a rough draft of a novel, so I'm only in the research stages of finding an agent for when I'm ready to query. I'm bookmarking suitable agents for my piece and am going to look at them in more detail when I'm further into the process.

  6. Sounds like you'll be in great shape by the time your novel is done. You're right that keeping the end in mind gives the motivation to keep going!


  7. I need to do a lot of the things on this list ;) Right now I'm just focusing on my actual novel though. Well, the query letter too. Getting there with that, thankfully!

  8. You're doing two things right, Trisha. Writing madly, and working on your query at the same time, while your head is really in the story.




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