QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quick Technical Note

Just a quick technical note.  If you subscribed to the QT Blog via email using the box to your right, please re-subscribe.  The feed was pointing to the wrong place, and yours truly is dyin' of embarrassment about it.  I double-checked the code and tested it, and it now works properly.  Sorry for any inconvenience!

Alert: Firebrand Query Holiday

I think every writer in the world knows about the Firebrand Literary Agency Query Holiday by now. Unless maybe you've been hiding out in a cave somewhere, or taken a break from the Internet (though I don't know how you've survived this long), or maybe just been catching up with real-life family and friends.

Maybe you've submitted your first chapter, maybe you haven't. If not, polish that baby up and submit it. Make sure you read over the rules, then send it in. I know of one talented QT'er who has received a full request from this contest. You've still got fifteen days until the deadline, and this would be a great goal for the new year. It's just one chapter. One bitty chapter. Oh, and then get the rest of your novel in tip top shape for when that full request comes.

Our goal here at the QueryTracker blog is to bring you agency news and contests, and this is the first installment. You can click here to see what Authoress has up her sleeve in January, and we'll post specifics as they are leaked on anything else we hear about.

Subscribe or follow us so you don't miss anything.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What ARE QueryTracker.net. QueryTracker.net Forum, and RallyStorm?

We're going to post frequently about ways QueryTracker.net, QueryTracker.net Forum, and RallyStorm can help you become a better writer, find an agent, and get published.  To that end, let's get started at the beginning -- what exactly are these sites, and why would you want to use them?


If you're a veteran of the query process, you know how hard it can be to keep track of agent information, submissions, and the responses to your submissions.  Maybe you've spent hours digging through Writer's Market or printing off pages from AgentQuery or PublishersMarketplace.  Maybe you've created elaborate tables, spreadsheets, or lists.  You've almost certainly found yourself thinking, There has to be an easier way to do this.

QueryTracker.net not only helps writers find agents, it gives them a way to organize their notes, their submissions, and their responses in one convenient place.  As writers record their experiences with different agents, that information is compiled, analyzed, and returned in the form of agent-specific trends and statistics.  As a result, writers can make informed decisions about who to query and what to expect when they do.

In 2008, QueryTracker.net first made Writer's Digest's popular Top 101 Sites for Writers list.

(And best of all, QueryTracker.net is free! An affordable premium subscription is available if you want even more data and statistics.)

QueryTracker.net Forum

QueryTracker.net Forum is a community of QueryTracker.net users who support one another and help each other out.  Newcomers are always welcome, and members are enthusiastic about helping with query letters, synopses, and the first five pages of manuscripts.  There are also areas to share information about literary agents, find out about scams and scammers, and just have a little fun!


RallyStorm is a social networking site that takes the best ideas from places like Facebook and combines them with the best ideas from places like Google Groups.  Once you've become a RallyStorm member, you can join one of the many existing groups or create one of your own.  Your groups can be small private forums for family or friends only, or large public forums to interact with others who share your interests. 

Since many of the earliest members of RallyStorm are actually QueryTracker users, you will find a number of groups dedicated to writers, most of them open to newcomers.  Some of the most popular are YA Authors on RallyStorm, Adult Fiction, the NaNoWriMo Support Group, Speculative Fiction Authors, and Romance Writers of RallyStorm.

Go and check them out!

Monday, December 29, 2008

7 Characteristics You Need To Get Published - Part Two

An article written by Elana Johnson, Carolyn Kaufman and Suzette Saxton

(Be sure to check out Part I from yesterday!

You've perfected your masterpiece and begun the submission process. Perhaps you have a partial, or maybe even a full, in the hands of an agent. You obsessively check your email every five minutes and jump each time the phone rings. In short, you no longer have control over your own project, which can leave you feeling discombobulated. Now what?

The following characteristics will help you through the times ahead - and improve your odds of reaching publication.

Characteristic 5: Professionalism

Understand that publishing is a business, and that agents and editors are trying to find books publishers—and eventually readers—will want to spend their hard-earned money to buy. That means you need to conduct yourself like a professional. While this might seem obvious, you must treat everyone you deal with, from agents’ assistants all the way up to publishing heads, with courtesy. Even if you don’t like what they’re telling you.

Never send hate mail back to agents or editors. (You might be surprised how often publishing professionals have to deal with this.) Also realize that form responses are normal — if you had to read hundreds of queries every month, you’d send them too! Don't take rejection as a personal attack—it's just business.

Characteristic 6: Patience

It takes patience to see your dream of being published come true. Not only patience to write the book—which doesn't happen in a single sitting—but patience to wait for responses from beta readers, critique groups, and then agents, editors, and publishers. Some respond immediately. Some are a little slower, but will respond eventually. And some won’t respond at all. In each case, your patience will be tried.

Characteristic 7: Luck

Before you decide that you’re doomed because you’ve never won the lottery (or even a door prize drawing), you need to know that we’re talking about the kind of luck you make for yourself. There is an old Chinese tenet, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So first, be prepared. And then cultivate your own luck. Lucky writers behave in ways that create good fortune in their lives. For example, they read agent and industry blogs (like this one!) to get a feel for what different agents like. They notice and act upon chance opportunities, follow their intuition, look for the bright side of every situation, and are certain their future is promising. Their outlook becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, creating the perfect environment for “luck” to flourish. Remember, it only takes one positive response!

Put All Those Characteristics Together: Indomitable Spirit

Incorporating these seven traits will result in the indomitable spirit necessary to succeed in the publishing industry. What is Indomitable Spirit? It’s an attitude or state of mind in which you are impossible to frighten or defeat. Never, never, never give up on your dreams.

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

About the Authors
Elana Johnson finished college against nearly-impossible odds, a struggle much like dealing with the publishing world. Visit her at http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/ for more publishing insights. Visit psychologist/writer Carolyn Kaufman at http://archetypewriting.com/ and learn more about how to use psychology accurately in your writing. Find “The Bone Setter,” Suzette Saxton’s most recently published work, here: http://www.mindflights.com/item.php?sub_id=4283.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

7 Characteristics You Need to Get Published - Part One

An article written by Elana Johnson, Carolyn Kaufman and Suzette Saxton

This article was referenced in the last QT newsletter, but I think it bears some repeating. In my mind—which is a pretty scary place to be—when I wrote this with my colleagues, I split the characteristics into two groups. So the first installment is below, and the second half will come tomorrow.

The first three characteristics deal with the writing process--the qualities you need to obtain to write the best book possible. The fourth, perseverance, is an overlapping quality you need to not only produce the best work you can, but also what you need to find the literary agent and editor who can bring your brilliance to print.

Agents and editors deal with hundreds of queries, synopses, proposals, and chapters every month. Whether you realize it or not, your approach to the process has a lot to do with whether or not your work will ever reach publication. Here are the 7 characteristics necessary to achieving your dreams!

Characteristic 1: Commitment to Growth

The first thing every real writer needs is a willingness to learn and grow. All agents or editors—no matter how busy—are interested in quality work. The first step: write the best book you can. That means you’ll probably need to brush up on grammar, syntax, sentence structure, and plotting. Don’t give someone an excuse to reject your work because you’ve either never learned or forgotten how to write in an active voice.

Research local or online writing workshops and sign up for a writing conference or two to jump start your creative juices and brush up on what it takes to become a published author. Join a critique group to help yourself develop a critical eye for grammar, sentence structure and plot in the writing of others. Then apply what you learn to your own writing. When you view writing as a life-long learning experience, you've taken the first step to becoming published.

Characteristic 2: Humility

Completing a project is an accomplishment, and one you should be proud of—just not too proud to miss places you still might be able to improve. Chances are, you did forget a comma somewhere. Or spelled a word wrong. Or didn't tie up that loose end. Or tried to cram in too many subplots. Or something. When you share your work with critique buddies, really listen to their feedback. If an agent is kind enough to offer advice, thank him or her and then consider making the changes to your manuscript.

Characteristic 3: Self-Confidence

On the flip-side of humility is self-confidence; you’ll need both in equal measure. Not to be confused with arrogance—there is a difference! Getting published is usually an uphill battle. Everyone along the way will have an opinion about your work, and not all of those opinions will be positive! Most agents reject between 95% and 99% of all queries they see, and editors are even harder to win over.

Even after you make it through the gauntlet of agents, editors, and other decision-makers, you’ll have to face book reviewers and bloggers. You must believe in yourself enough not only to go through the whole process, but also to endure the onslaught that follows. Once you've acquired the skills of a writer, a sense of self-confidence will help you recognize that your hours of research, learning, and growing are going to pay off.

Characteristic 4: Perseverance

Once you've produced the very best story you can, built your self-confidence, and balanced it with humility, it’s time to submit. Research agents and editors and only submit to those who are a good match for your project. And don't just submit to one agent or editor. Or two. Or even ten. Keep going until you find one who loves your work!

And don't stop writing while you submit. Maybe your first book won’t make as big of a splash as you’re hoping. Maybe your second—or your fifth—novel will be the one to land that dream agent and publishing contract. Author Dan Brown published three books before he scored a worldwide bestseller with The DaVinci Code.

Watch for the second half of this article to be posted tomorrow. I think it deals more with qualities you need when you're ready to begin the agent hunt. In the meantime, since it's the New Year and all, set a writing goal for this year. Maybe to be more committed to excellence in writing, gaining humility or building up your self-confidence.

Be sure to read Part II, coming tomorrow!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Meet The QT Blog Team!

Now that the blog layout is done and we're ready to go, you'll want to subscribe so you can get updates in your favorite blog reader.  We'll be posting several times a week, and we don't want you to miss important industry news (including agent contests and announcements), hot writing and publishing tips, a soon-to-be announced QT Blog contest, and ways to use QueryTracker.net, QueryTracker Forum, and RallyStorm to help you become a better writer, find an agent, and get published!

As the members of the new QT Blog team, we wanted to introduce ourselves!

H. L. Dyer

I am 35-years-old, married, and I work as the Clinical and Academic Director for the Hospitalist Program at a pediatric teaching hospital near Chicago. I love that I can now combine my work as a pediatrician with training future physicians.

I'm also seeking representation for my novel, The Edge of Memory. In addition to all things literary (which includes grilling my legion of test readers), I enjoy experimental cooking and composing impromptu parodies to annoy close friends and family.

Elana Johnson

I wish I could experience my first kiss again, tell the mean girl where to shove it, and have cool superpowers like reading minds and controlling fire. To fulfill my desires, I write young adult science fiction and fantasy.

Using my boring human powers, I graduated from Southern Utah University with Summa Cum Laude honors in Elementary Education with a minor in Mathematics. I started my teaching career as an upper grade music and art specialist. After a four-year stint in 3rd grade, I am currently the technology specialist.

In my world, Oreos and bacon would be the only food groups. Everyone would drive 10 over the speed limit. Winter would be eliminated as a season, and Jeff Probst would be President. As it is, I live with my husband and two kids in central Utah, get cited when I drive too fast and eat Oreos only on special occasions. I blog about what constitutes a special occasion—as well as my writerly journey toward publication—at http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/.

Carolyn Kaufman (who posts as “Archetype”)

I’m a clinical psychologist. Though I used to do therapy, I currently teach college full-time in Columbus, Ohio. A published nonfiction writer, I also run Archetype Writing: Psychology for Fiction Writers.

I enjoy working with journalists, and I’m often quoted by the media as an expert resource in psychology. I’ve appeared in magazines like Marie Claire and Seventeen, newspapers like The Boston Globe, and books like Andrea Kay’s Work’s a Bitch and Then You Make It Work.

I write science fantasy and urban fantasy, sometimes with romantic elements. I’m currently seeking representation for my novel. My nonfiction book, Nervous Breakdowns and Psychopathic Killers: The Writer’s Guide to Psychology is represented by Kate Epstein of Epstein Literary.

When I’m not writing or teaching, I can usually be found tinkering with websites, taking photographs, or torturing myself at the gym.

Mary Lindsey

I write paranormal fiction and live on the Texas Gulf Coast with my husband, three kids, two dogs, my daughter's pet rats, an Australian Bearded Dragon and dozens of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. (The roaches are long story—don't ask.)

My young adult paranormal romance, SOUL PURPOSE, is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Prior to attending University of Houston Law School, I received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Drama from the University of Houston. I’ve taught drama and playwriting in a large public high school and English in a private school. Currently, I teach acting to children and teens at a private studio. I'm a member of The Writer's League of Texas, SCBWI, RWA and WH-RWA.

Suzette Saxton

I am a freelance writer with both fiction and nonfiction publishing credits, and a member of several worldwide critique groups. Prior to starting my writing career, I worked many years for a diverse range of organizations, including Waldenbooks and Marriott International. I left my earlier careers to be an at-home mom and focus on writing.

Most of my books target the very youngest of readers and often stem from time spent playing with my own children. When I’m not writing, I like to build stone walls, make faux flagstone floors, and take long walks up our little canyon to look for our resident wolverine. My prized possession is a first edition Edgar Allen Poe graced with my great great grandfather’s 1907 signature inside the front cover.

My story, The Bone Setter, was published in the Summer 2008 edition of Mindflights ezine and recently re-released in their best-of-the-best Volume 3 print edition.

Our Dancin' Elvish Selves

In the spirit of the holidays (and our sometimes-wacky personalities), we wanted to include a shot of us all together...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

RallyStorm Upgrade!

If you've been watching the past few days, you may have noticed that the look of the QT Blog is changing as we get ready to start bringing you articles, updates, and industry news.  Keep an eye on this spot for introductions from the new team members (including me)!

I had to sneak out here before then to remind you to check out RallyStorm if you haven't lately.  Patrick upgraded the site today (what a great Christmas gift to us all!) with a new look and lots of new features.

The community hosts plenty of fantastic forums, including many for writers.  And don't be afraid to join a forum that already exists -- it's a friendly community, and the more the merrier!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Life For This Blog

Some of you may have noticed that I am the world's worst blogger. A group of dear friends from QueryTracker and RallyStorm have also noticed and have graciously volunteered to help. Each of them is a talented writer with plenty to say and lots of great ideas for making this blog more informative and enjoyable for everyone, so of course I jumped on the chance to have them join in. For me, their offer was a Christmas Miracle.

I'll let them introduce themselves and tell us a little about their writing and their query experiences.

Again I thank them, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Essential QT Blog Posts









Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The QT Blog Team

H. L. Dyer

H.L. Dyer works as the Clinical and Academic Director for the Hospitalist Program at a pediatric teaching hospital near Chicago. She loves that she can now combine her work as a pediatrician with training future physicians.

Her  novel, THE EDGE OF MEMORY, is represented by Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary Agency. In addition to all things literary (which includes grilling her legion of test readers), she enjoys experimental cooking and composing impromptu parodies to annoy close friends and family.

Mary Lindsey

Mary Lindsey writes paranormal fiction and lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband, three kids, two dogs, her daughter's pet rats, an Australian Bearded Dragon and dozens of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. (The roaches are long story—don't ask.)

Mary is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Her young adult paranormal romance, SHATTERED SOULS (Philomel/Penguin), is scheduled for release Fall 2011.

Prior to attending University of Houston Law School, Mary received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Drama from the University of Houston. She's taught drama and playwriting in a large public high school and English in a private school. Currently, she teaches acting to children and teens at a private studio. She's a member of The Writer's League of Texas, SCBWI, RWA and WH-RWA.

Elana Johnson
Elana is the author of FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL, an ebook that covers everything you need to know about querying and securing a literary agent. She will be speaking at a conference in April 2010, covering the topics of querying the national market and writing a killer query letter.

Elana is represented by Michelle Andelman at Lynn C. Franklin Associates.

She wishes she could experience her first kiss again, tell the mean girl where to shove it, and have cool superpowers like reading minds and controlling fire. To fulfill her desires, she writes young adult science fiction and fantasy.

She runs a personal blog on writing as well as a query critique blog.

Carolyn Kaufman

Carolyn Kaufman has a doctorate in clinical psychology and teaches college full-time in Columbus, Ohio. She is represented by Kate Epstein of the Epstein Literary Agency and her first book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior (Quill Driver Books) is slated for an autumn 2010 release.

In addition to her work on the QueryTracker.net Blog, she runs Archetype: Psychology for Fiction Writers, where writers will find articles about psychology tailored to their needs. They can also ask her their writing/psychology questions and read the answers on the Archetype Writing blog.

She is often quoted by the media as an expert resource and has appeared in magazines such as Marie Claire and Seventeen, newspapers like The Boston Globe and The Plain Dealer, and books like Andrea Kay’s Work’s a Bitch and then You Make It Work.

Suzette Saxton

Suzette Saxton is a stay-home mom of three children, two of them beautiful and one of them a teenager. She writes fiction for children of all ages and is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary Management.

You can find Suzette volunteering at the school library on Wednesdays, mentoring teen writers through the Literati Outreach program on Saturdays, and reading to her own children every day of the week. Though occasionally she can be forced to take a walk in the lovely little canyon in which she lives, at all other times you can find her writing.

The Bone Setter, her short story inspired by a dream, was published in Mindflights Magazine's ezine and later republished in their print edition. She has a special love of dark fairy tales and very old nursery rhymes. You can find Suzette on TwitterFacebookher personal blog, or her website.

Last updated: April 3, 2010

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I know I haven't been around much lately, but I have a good excuse. I've been working on a new website and at last it is ready for the public (more or less).

Though not exclusively for writers, I believe that writers can get a lot of use out of it. The site is called RallyStorm.com and it is a kind of social networking site but with a twist. RallyStorm allows users to create and manager their own forums. Invite just the people you want, or make it open to the public. A small group of testers (writers of course) have been using it quite successfully for private critique groups. RallyStorm for Writers.

I hope you will stop by and give it a try. Don't forget to drop by my profile and say hello.

Here is how one of our members (kiddoc) described it.

Basically, RallyStorm is a social networking site, in some ways similar to MySpace or Facebook.

As a Rallystorm member, you have a profile where you can include information about yourself. You can designate other users as “friends”, post comments on their profile pages, and send virtual gifts. But unlike other sites where your profile is the focus, at Rallystorm it’s just a small part of your ways to connect.

Rallystorm allows you to create and manage your own FORUMS. Your forums can be personal or public, open to anyone or invitation only.

Want to create a public forum to discuss Barack Obama or Paris Hilton or Project Runway or Knitting Techniques? Done.

Want a private forum to post pictures of your kids and talk about them with your family and friends? Sure.

Need a private site for easy group discussion by your test readers on your latest work in progress? Rallystorm can do that too.

Create a virtual Book Club. Discuss the latest breaking news. Form a Chocoholics Support Group. Pretty much anything you can think of to discuss, you can find or make a place to do it.

Monday, May 12, 2008


It is really great to see so many success stories on the main site at Querytracker.net. The goal when we started this site was to give writers more accurate methods of gaining representation, and after a year on the Web, it is clear that we have done that. Thank you to all of you who plugged in your data and helped the rest of us. You can follow along with some of our successful authors as they travel the road to publication by visiting the Querytracker forum. Jessica Verday is often online giving us updates on her book, "The Hollow," the first in an amazing new series due to be released by Simon and Schuster in 2009. You can also find updates and things about Jess in general on her blog: http://jessicaverday.blogspot.com

Other members on the forum have procured representation, sold short stories, or just celebrated the completion of a new novel. All these things are a measure of success, and your successes are our successes. So as we venture into our second year here at Querytracker.net, we want to say thank you, both for being a part of our first year, and for giving us our own measure of recognition by voting for us as one of Writer's Digest's top 101 websites for writers. We are proud of that recognition, and we are proud of you! Keep writing!!

Patrick and Jason

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to Write a Great Query Letter

One of our long time members on the Querytracker community recently posted a link to a book that I thought deserved a mention on the blog. Thanks for this great info, Emeraldsky. Everyone who is at the stage in their writing journey where they are ready to start the query process should take a few days and read this book beforehand.

Noah Lukeman, author of The First Five Pages and former literary agent has made his book How to Write a Great Query Letter available online for free. Thanks, Noah. This book is a great resource for writers, as it gives them an inside look at what a lot of agents are really looking for in the ever-so-crucial query letter. As Mr. Lukeman states, so many writers spend months and years writing and polishing their book and then unintentionally shoot themselves in the foot by dashing off a query in a matter of minutes. Even if your work is Pulitzer-quality, no one will ever see it if you can't convince an agent with a well crafted query that it is worth their time to investigate further. I urge everyone to go to the link and get this book RIGHT NOW!! Just click on the title of this post and it will take you there. Keep writing!


Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Second Draft

Most of us in the writing community have a way we like to go about our craft. Some writers like to map out their entire story before they even start to write, while others like to let the characters and the story emerge organically, growing almost of their own volition.

But what about the second draft?

While I am not saying that this is the only way to go about revising your work, it is a great place to start. Believe me, I don't care if you're Hemingway, your first draft needs work. We've all heard that most of writing is re-writing, and I am a subscriber to that theory. The first draft is all about blasting out those words and getting the story down. Once that's done, the real work begins.

A story is like a gemstone. I'm sure no one has ever heard that comparison before, but it is a really good way to visualize the process. In the first draft, you have unearthed this rock. It is big and blocky and very organic-looking. The first thing you're going to do is look at the whole thing and see where the heart of the gem lies. You cut away the roughest material until you can see its true form. Once that is done, you rough it into the general shape you want it to take, and finally you polish it and facet it until it glitters like a star. These are the same steps you can take when you begin the revision process.

Step one: Story If you are not an outliner, then once the first draft is finished you should go back and re-read your story and create an outline along the way. Some people suggest putting the manuscript away for anywhere from a week to a month, but that is up to you. The idea is to give yourself "fresh eyes" for your manuscript. This is important because we are so close to our work and know it so intimately that we can't look at it objectively. You need objectivity to honestly evaluate your work, so if you need time away, take it, and when you're ready, pull it back out and get to reading. Once you have a feel for your story as a whole, go back and look over your outline and make sure that everything in the story fits. Ensure that the subplots and characters are there for a reason. A major rewrite may be necessary at this step, and if it is, don't let it intimidate you. Rewriting is good if it is making the story better. Conflict, character, tension and obstacles for your main character to overcome must all be there and must all be necessary to resolve the story. Once you have the story set and you are sure that all the elements fit together you can move on to the next step.

Step Two: Scene Now that you have the story set, it is time to go back through and look at each scene you have created. Look at them with an eye toward cutting. If a scene doesn't need to be there and the story still flows nicely without it, cut it. Sometimes this step will lead you to a major plot revision. If this is the case, then go back to Step One and start all over again. I know that sounds like the worst thing in the world, but it is better than having a bad story. Scenes should begin and end naturally and dialog should be clean and realistic.

Step Three: Sentence Now your are ready to facet and polish your gem. Go through each and every sentence of your book, watching for anything that makes you stop and go back to reread. Watch for excessive adjectives and adverbs, and make sure you have strong verbs. Word conservation is what you should be focusing on here. There should be no unnecessary words in your sentences. Sentence lengths should be varied and provide an easy rhythm. It is a good idea to read your book out loud so that you can hear how it sounds. You will catch a lot of flow and rhythm problems here.

It is at this point that you should feel confident to present your work to a critique group or your beta readers, but don't be surprised if they still find things that you missed. Beta readers are especially valuable in the sense that if several readers point out the same issue, then you can be fairly sure that you have a real problem. Beta readers are going to want to give you input, but remember that it is your story, and if you don't feel like a suggested change then don't make it. Ultimately it is up to you.

This approach is logical to me, as it moves from general down to specific, from the broad stroke of the story to the microscopic sentence structure. Though it is in no way the only method for revision, it's one that many people can use and is easy to keep in your head during the process. There are definite steps and goals to be reached in each step. If you have methods that you prefer, leave a comment and let us know! Keep writing!