QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, May 31, 2010

Are You Ready? How Do You Know?

Today's post is brought to you by the loverly Shannon Messenger. She recently signed with literary agent Laura Rennert, after only two weeks of querying! If you're not following Shannon's blog, you're totally missing out. And today, she's got some great advice for us on how to know when your draft -- and your query letter -- are ready to send out.

So I give you: Shannon.

You did it! You finished a whole book! You finally have something you’re not only proud of, but that you think will sell.

Awesome! Well done you. Now, it’s time to query!

Or is it?

How do you know that you’re REALLY ready to query?

I’ll admit, I struggled with that question. All right, FINE—my friends had to drag me into the querying pool kicking and screaming. I’m a baby. But I’ve since put a lot of thought into this, because I was curious to know how my friends could be so positive that I was ready (since they knew I would kill them if they set me up for epic failure). And it really comes down to 3 things:

Your Draft: You know your draft is ready when you’ve gotten positive feedback from a number of CPs—and no, I don’t mean your spouse/parent/BFF. I mean honest, brutal CPs who aren’t afraid to tell you when your draft is made of suckage. If they think you’re ready, you probably are.

Your Query: Writing a good query letter is HARD, so I’m a big believer in seeking professional assistance. (I personally used an online query workshop and had an additional query critique.) It’s not expensive and it’s SO worth it. But if that’s not in your budget, have your CPs help. It’s also good to have a few people who know nothing about the project read and give you their thoughts. You’ll be surprised at the things they notice.

You: Ask yourself if you’re ready to face the rejections—because rejections WILL come. Are you passionate enough about your project to keep going when you run into obstacles? And do you really believe that this is not only the best draft you’ve ever written—but the best draft you’re capable of writing right now? Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression with an agent, so don’t query a project just because you’re proud of yourself for finishing. Wait until you’re querying your BEST work.

If you examine those three areas and come up with the right answers, you’re ready to query. It may still mean a lot of frustration and rejection. But it’ll also pay off, and you’ll end up announcing to the world that you signed with your dream agent. And when you do, we’ll all be there to celebrate right along with you.

So what about you guys. How did you know when you were ready to query? Did I miss anything?


Creepy Query Girl said...

This is all really great advice and hooking an agent after only two weeks! Wow thats insane! Congrats! I never know when I'm ready. I like to send out about ten querries and if no one wants to see it, I take a serious look at my query. If I get requests but nobody takes me up on the ms, I resubmit it to my cp's or take another look at the first three chapters.

Terri Tiffany said...

You did great. I did each of those things including working really hard on my query and I did get a few requests for a full. Now if I get rejected on all of them, then I will probaly too look at my book again to see if it is really ready or meeting the needs of the market.

Robyn Campbell said...

Shannon, you GO girl. You are so cool. And so RIGHT. I'm readying my query. And I thought about querying agents before my MS was really finished. But! I didn't. I made lots of changes and now I know that I know it is ready. YAY!

Thanks for this wonderful bit of GENIUS. *grin*

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Aw, thanks for the comments guys!

Creepy Query Girl--(Heh, your name still makes me laugh) Trust me, I was more stunned than anyone to get an offer that quick, especially from Laura who was my number one. And testing the waters is always a good idea. I sent off only 3 queries my first night. When I got a partial request and a full request that same night I decided it was a good sign and sent 7 more. Two weeks later I had my offer, so I guess it was. Good luck querying. :)

Terri: Ooo, huge congrats on the full requests. That's so exciting! I really hope good news comes from them, but it sounds like you have the perfect attitude if they aren't the right agents for you yet. :)

Robyn: Hey, thanks. I *think* you might be the first person to call me cool (I'm kind of the quintessential nerd. I do write MG after all. :P) And yeay, so glad you didn't query before you were ready. Sounds like you are now. Can't wait to read your agent announcement when the time comes!

Aubrie said...

Great advice and congrats!

ali said...

Congrats Shannon! I've met Laura and she is beyond awesome.

I made some mistakes my first time into the querying pool. I had a great query so I got a ton of requests for the full. And then a ton of rejections.

So, I've just finished a round of revisions so I think the MS is NOW finally ready. I just hope there are still agents out there I didn't already send it to. *sigh*

Natalie Aguirre said...

Congrats on getting an agent. And so quickly. Your advice is great. It is so important to wait till your manuscript is perfect, though sometime it's hard to know when that is.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Aubrie: Aw, thanks Aubrie. And thanks for taking the time to comment!

Ali: I'm always glad to hear good things about Laura. I've met her too, and she was wonderful. Sorry you've had querying issues, but it sounds like you're on the right track now. And it depends on what the rejection said--and the agent's policy--but if you've significantly revised the MS you might be able to re-query some of the rejections. But there's also PLENTY of agents out there. I have no doubt you'll find one! :)

Natalie: Aw, thanks. It was definitely a whirlwind. And it IS hard to know when you're ready. But it's not about having a 'perfect manuscript'--Laura still had me do quite a lot of revision, and the same thing happened with my friends who have agents. It's about having a strong query, a strong concept, and a strong MS. Your CPs will help you know when you've achieved those. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wow, Shannon, I follow your blog and this is all news to me. I'm just amazed at how quickly agents got back to you to request your ms. That agency is known for their slow requests.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Stina: LOL. Yeah, I haven't really done much of a "how I got my agent" post. Felt weird. I might do one for the guide to literary agents though. And I know, I was stunned at how quick it went. I actually got caught by surprise--I still had about 100 pages left to line edit, thinking it'd be weeks before I got any full requests. I had to pull an all nighter to get my draft cleaned up to send the next day. Lesson learned, finish line edits BEFORE hitting send on queries in case it goes that quick.

Claire Dawn said...

I know I'm not ready yet, but when I am, someone will probably have to drag me in too!