The Basics: Querying Literary Agents

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The adventure begins. After 18 months and five rewrites, I have a finished, polished novel manuscript. Now, to sell it.

Here are the essentials according to every book on selling a novel I’ve ever read and my mentor/editor Anna Yeatts.

  • The manuscript itself
  • A one-page synopsis
  • A query letter

I put together all three with a lot of help from Anna, an editor friend of hers, and a novelist friend.   

The rest has been research to find the right agents. How to search? Look for agents who want to represent your genre. Or check #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) on Twitter or Pinterest.

And now the fun begins. I started with a list of 13 agents (yes, I also planted 13 trees in my backyard) and started researching. Not just the literary agency website, but also all social media, including podcasts. And found a wealth of helpful information.

What worked for me was to send one query three days a week. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I narrow my sights on a single agent and end by hitting SEND on the email or SUBMIT on the query submission manager. Different agents want different items. A query letter only. A query letter, a synopsis, and the first—five pages, ten pages, three chapters—of the novel.

So far, I’ve received four rejections that say my submission—a paranormal romance—does not line up with the agent’s MSWL

I’m waiting for the email that says, “Please send the entire manuscript.”

Wish me luck. Stay tuned.

Writing Every Day

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This past March 7, I participated in #PitMad, a Twitter event in which writers pitch finished novels to agents. While I didn’t get a bite, I did join #WritingCommunity and followed a number of different writers.

Living where I do—rural Kansas—I don’t get to interact with many writers. We have a local writers’ group, but it’s sparsely attended. So meeting other writers online has been a real treat for me.

One question I see asked frequently is “how do I write every day?” And I’m amazed that some folks write at all. What with the day-job, the kids, and other various commitments, I can’t imagine finding time to sit in a quiet place with yellow legal pad or laptop.

At my last job, all I did was write. Business proposals, grants, web articles, email tips, the CEO’s blog, internal and external newsletters … you get the picture. I’d stop at the local coffee shop on my way into the office. When arriving, I’d sit down at my desk, take that fortifying first sip of joe, and write. I’d leave the office after eight (or ten or twelve) hours of writing, and drive home, only to repeat the next day. Because I wrote to short deadlines, it wasn’t unusual for me to write all day, every day. And no time, usually, for editing.

My writing—getting the stories in my head into words on a page—was impossible. After that writing-heavy workday, I’d had a surfeit of writing.

Once I left that job, though, I found I’d developed the habit of daily writing. Getting words on paper—my words now—was an imperative. Like brushing teeth or exercise or bedtime, writing had become an essential of everyday life. My theory is that if a person wants to write every day, it can be done through habit formation.

There are tons of books written about developing habits. My personal favorite comes from Prochaska and Norcross, Changing for Good.

Once a person moves into a state of readiness for change, it’s a matter of toughing out the ninety days or so that it takes to develop a positive habit.

Warning: if a person is already overextended like I was, maybe the first step is to let go of other commitments. Just saying…

And now for my finding an agent update. Five queries have gone out the door for The Last Summer Queen. Another goes out tomorrow. Wish me luck.