QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Queries: All Those Little Things You’ve Wondered

This month on the Querytracker blog, we’ve been discussing queries and querying. Today I want to discuss the little things you might have wondered about as you prepare to send out queries.

Full Verses Proposals

The answer depends on if you’re querying fiction or non-fiction. If you plan to query a non-fiction book (with some exceptions such as memoirs), you can send the agent a proposal, which includes a query, outline, and sample chapters. If you are querying fiction, then the novel needs to be completed. If you’re already traditionally published (or have self published and have strong sales), some agents might accept a proposal for your next novel, but in most cases, you’ll still need a complete novel.

Things are slightly different at the publisher level once you’re published. Your agent might shop your fiction proposal to editors. This usually consists of the agent’s pitch, a two-to-five page synopsis, and sample pages (often the first fifty pages). The odds of an editor being interested in your book are greater when they’ve read your previous works. Then they have faith that you will deliver what you promise in terms of storytelling and writing. The advantage of selling on proposal (which I’ve done), is that you don’t have to worry about writing the book and then discover no one wants it. The disadvantage is you still have to write the novel and you have less time to write it than if you had written it first. Of course, if you land a two-or-more-book deal, you’ll have to deal with these time pressures, anyway, with the other books.

Which One To Query

Querying takes time, unless you get lucky and the first agents you query jump on your book. We’re told to work on our next book while querying, but what happens if you finish the book before you’ve queried all the agents on your list? Well, first, if the books are different genres (for example erotic romance and a children’s picture book), query each book separately. Your list of agents will likely be very different. If the books are for the same genre, query the strongest one first. Don’t mention the other books. Save it for if you get The Call. You might decide to shelf the first book and not query the rest of the agents on your list. Or you might decide to continue querying the agents on the list with book #1, and query agents who’ve already passed on the first book with novel #2. But if you’ve just received a rejection from an agent one week, don’t query the other book the following week. Allow the rejection on the previous book time to cool down first, or else the agent will assume you made the same mistakes as before and didn’t take the time to develop your writing and storytelling skills.


You’ve written the first book in a planned series, should you start writing the second book? Unless you’re planning to self publish the book if the traditional route doesn’t pan out, work on a project that has nothing to do with the series. If you do write the second book and book one doesn’t sell, you’ve wasted your time (unless you’re fine with chalking it up as a practice novel). If it’s a standalone story, which doesn’t require you read the other book first, then this isn’t an issue. But if it’s a sequel, work on a completely different project while you query the first book. Then if no one bites on the first book, you’ll have something else to query once you’ve finished the book. Otherwise, it could take you even longer before you can get back into the query game.

Short Stories And Novellas

Can you query short stories to agents? No. Most aren’t even interested in novellas. Check the agent’s website to see if she does accept queries for novellas; otherwise, query editors who are interested in short stories and novellas directly.

I’ve Have An Offer…

Congratulations! If you land an offer from an agent or publisher, contact everyone who still has your query or submission and let them know that you’ve an offer. If it’s from another agent, you don’t mention who the offer is from. If it’s from a publisher, let the agents know which one, but don’t accept it first and then tell the agents. If you do, no one will want to represent you because they can’t shop it around to other publishers.  Some agents will automatically pass on the book because they don’t have time to read it. For others, the offer will result in the book being fast track to the top of the slush pile.

Make sure you write “I’ve have an offer!” in the subject heading, or else your email could get stuck in the query slush pile for a very long time.

Do you have any questions about querying that you’ve been dying to know the answer to?

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