Deb Joanne Discusses the Dreaded Query Letter

Welcome back from Thanksgiving, everyone.  Hope you all had a wonderful holiday with friends and family!  But now it’s back to the harsh reality of how to get your book published: and that harsh reality means you’re probably going to need to write and send out query letters to make it happen.

Oh, the dreaded query letter.  Who here loves writing and sending queries?

*crickets chirping*

I know, I know.

No one is this happy about sending queries. We’ll assume she just got a full request from her dream agent. Congrats, Stock Photo writer lady!

Well, I’m here to tell you that although writing them kind of sucks and sending them out and then waiting for responses (which may end up being rejections) kind of sucks, they can and do work.

I’m living proof.  Well, sort of.

What I mean is, that although I have been successful in using queries to land agents to represent me and my work, I did not have the experience of query = agent = book deal.  It wasn’t that tidy for me.  But in the end, it all really did start with cold queries.

And I’ve sent out hundreds and hundreds of cold queries.  Actually, I figure I’ve sent probably a thousand or more queries in the many years of trying to get published.  None yet have killed me or caused me real harm, other than the odd paper cut (back in the day before I stopped sending out snail-mail queries), so they can’t be that bad. Yes, there is a lot at stake and yes, it’s a different skill set than writing a novel, but I’m sorry, you’ll just have to deal with it, because that’s how most agents find a lot of their clients. AND most agents are lovely, generous and understanding people who relish finding great books in the slush pile, so if you write a decent query and act professionally, you have nothing to fear.  There is a very good chance you will be rejected, but I can assure you, you will not be decapitated.  See how everything is relative?

I don’t have a query for SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE to share with you because it is the one book that I never queried agents on (this is what I was getting at above).  Even though the agent who sold it was not the first to shop it, I had signed with both of those agents on other books, proving that nothing in my journey has been a linear progression, nor made any real sense, but in the end, it did all work out.  However, I did send out queries on 12 other books and had a fair bit of success with them, so I do know a little something.

There are lots of great and very comprehensive query resources/blogs out there, so I’m not going to make this into a ‘what to do’ post.  But if you are querying or soon to be querying, I can’t say enough about these two online resources that I used extensively in my agent hunts:

Agent Query – a searchable database which also has plenty of great resources and articles about the business, including what to do when you get an offer (I used this myself).

Query Tracker – this one is an online database where you can search for agents according to genre/agency etc and sign up to use the tool to keep track of who you’ve queried, along with the results.  I found this to be an invaluable resource, replacing my onerous spreadsheets.  It is always very up-to-date and even includes agents’ clients (not all, but often enough names to be representative) and links to their agency pages and searches.

So that’s pretty much all I have to say on the topic of queries, but I’m very happy to answer any questions about querying, the process or whatever.  I’d also love to hear what YOU think of querying: anyone want to share stories or thoughts?

15 Replies to “Deb Joanne Discusses the Dreaded Query Letter”

  1. Ugh. Querying is just one of those parts of the biz you have to take a deep breath and power through. Agent Query and Query Tracker are both great databases — I used them both myself.

    1. I actually never hated querying so much. If I had to pick a part of the biz that I absolutely loathe (besides allt he waiting) it would be the synopsis. I HATE writing those and revealing all the book’s secrets in such a dry, clinical way. It goes against everything I stand for as a writer, which is creating DRAMA. 😉

  2. Oh, I’m excited for this week! I always think the topic of queries is such a juicy one–and all of us can always glean something from one another’s experiences…

    I agree on Agent Query–heck, I remember the days of the Pink Pages, so these online databases are incredible.

  3. I’m another person who doesn’t hate uerying. Not sure if that’s because I’ve done less of it, or because as a freelance writer I write pitches all the time and it’s a sort of similar exercise. I mean, I don’t LIKE it, particularly, but it doesn’t irk me.

    That said, I’d probably be singing a different tune if I’d written thousands or if I’d had worse luck, I guess. Also, I was such a newbie when I wrote mine that I probably just didn’t know that I didn’t know what I was doing!

    1. Sometimes not knowing what you don’t know is a good thing. If I’d known how many queries/years/books it was going to take, I never would have kept on. Glad it wasn’t a harrowing experience for you, Rachel!

  4. Good Evening All,
    Late this week sorry. We this is a hard week for me to comment on since I am not a writer and not been through any of the above like the rest of you
    Next week same time same place.

    Keep working hard.

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  6. Well, it’s definitely scary but we have to do it right? They aren’t just gonna be out there reading blogs waiting for an author to be born. It is still very scary!

    Thanks for the helpful links!!

    1. It is scary, Missy. But it does get easier and the worst that will happen is a “no, thanks”. Good luck to you and you’ve very welcome!

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