First of all, when I was shopping Girlish, I went with the “wallpaper the internet with queries” technique. I queried editors and agents and entered emerging writers’ contests—I tried to put my manuscript in front of as many people as humanly possible. One agent I really liked only took submissions through something called authors.me, so I checked it out.
Authors.me is basically a dating service for agents, editors, and writers, and although the dream agent didn’t take me, it is the place where I connected with Skyhorse Publishing.
Here’s how it works:
First off, its’ completely free for writers. You upload all the pieces of your project: bio, hook, synopsis, outline, first 30 pages, and complete manuscript. It asks for information about your target audience, genre, quotes from the book and a tagline. Then the project goes into discovery. From there, an agent or editor can search for projects that match what they are looking for, and the website will send you suggestions of places that are potential matches.
Hope is a precious commodity during the querying process. It’s very hard to hold onto, so let me add a word of caution: a lot of the results I got were for hybrid publishers. I googled every place before I submitted to them, because I have only so much hope and I couldn’t risk having it dashed to the ground by someone who told me they wanted my work and then asked for a couple of thousand dollars. I also didn’t want to waste my hope on a place that was not queer-friendly.
Once you submit to a place through authors.me you can track the editor or agent’s progress. For example, did they read your hook and decline it? Did they get through 30 pages and then give up? Or did they read the entire book? This is valuable information—it tells you if it is your project or your marketing materials that need work. Also, many agents and editors don’t even send a form rejection email—if they don’t like you, you never hear anything back, so the little tracker feature gave me something to look at while trying to not check my email every 2.7 seconds.
In full disclosure, Skyhorse was already on my radar. I heard a woman on an Agents and Editors Panel at HippoCamp Creative Nonfiction Conference and she was so vibrant and exciting that I wanted to work with her. There was also a debut author on another panel who had just published with Skyhorse and she had nothing but glowing things to say about them. So when Skyhorse started looking at my package, it was hard to keep my hope in check as they green lighted one piece after another.
Now, I’m not the type to put all my hope into one place—in addition to authors.me I was still googling and querying agents and editors all over the internet. I did get a few requests for full from other places outside of authors.me, but Skyhorse was the fastest and therefore won.
While I was querying, I read everything I could about querying I could find. I asked writer friends to read my constant revisions to my query. The nice thing about authors.me is that you can update your project materials as often as you want without having to resubmit your project.
The formula of the “hook, the book, and the cook” is the gold standard of the query letter, with one caveat. At the Agents and Editors Panel, every person—I repeat, every single person—said that they want to know marketing data in the query as well. They want to know what your market base and platform are. They clarified that this isn’t just social media—it also includes real life activities like book groups and volunteering. They want to be reassured that you understand that while writing is an art, publishing is a business, and they are looking for writers who will be partners in the marketing process.
Although the whole “cook, book, hook” thing is really all there is to it, I need to be told over and over and given many examples. If you are the same way, here are a few good blogs about querying:
Girlish debuts with Skyhorse Publishing April 3, 2018.