How to Query in a Sea of Literary Agents


Writing a query letter takes as much patience as it does practice. It is a frustrating, yet critical piece to the publishing world. It is a piece that I am still trying to master…and from what I have learned, I will always be a student.

My approach to query letter submission is this: after the letter has been drafted, proofed, scrapped, re-worked, and finally ready, I query in tiers. I bait my hook.

Identify agents in groups of five. Send your initial queries to them and then wait (waiting really is the hardest part) only move on to tier two when you’ve exhausted tier one. Repeat.

If you get all rejections, your query letter needs re-working OR you didn’t query the correct agent. In other words, you didn’t bait your hook for the right fish. You are using an artificial lure, yet you are trying to catch a fish who prefers live minnows.

Identifying the right agent for my work has been more difficult than I had imagined. I read through the lists on Publisher’s Marketplace. I try to best match up styles, interest, and current client lists but at the end of the day, it has never been “a perfect fit.” My story is a little more romance or my story is a little more YA. My story is always a little off. I became frustrated, and as a result, I have taken a break from query. I have been spending time reading some of the books I feel are close to mine in genre. The last few books I have gravitated towards have been agented by the same person. I didn’t know this until after the fact and researched it. Too bad the agent is a King Mackerel. Which means she is not accessible by the likes of lil’ ol’ unpublished me. I must work my way up to the chartered expedition. So the search continues.

Querying takes time. It takes a lot of leg work. It takes a lot research and preparation. Writing the letter is just the first part. Submission is just as vital and you must do your homework. There is no easy way out, and there is no shortcut.

I am in the process of compiling my next several agent query tiers. I have learned it is necessary to prepare for submission in a way that is concise, methodical, and well-ordered. My tackle box must be well stocked and organized. My gear must be in good working order. My lines cannot be tangled, and most of all, I must have the proper bait for the fish I wish to catch. I have polished my work, and now it is time for me to get back out there and wait.

After all, you can’t catch a fish with your hook out of the water.


About holliequeener

I am an author. Which is defined as "the person who originated or gave existence to anything." So in that sense, we are all authors of some sort. More specifically I am a writer of fiction. I am a member of the Romance Writer’s Association and an active Pine Mountain Poet Society member.
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