Friday, December 30, 2011

My Take On The Query Process Part One

So, to kick off my author blog I'm going to dive right into a subject that concerns a lot of new writers: the query process. From my time  on the YA writing site, I've seen a lot of people confused about what it takes to get published by a traditional/major publisher. I originally posted these thoughts on a thread there to try to help out new writers. Of course, much of this info can be found with a quick Google search and I encourage you to look at posts by authors/agents on the subject.

In Part One I'll be answering some FAQ and outlining the process:

1) How long is a YA novel? How many pages?
"Pages" isn't as important as words! Agents and publishers will ask for a word count. For YA books, the average is anywhere from 50,000-80,000. This all depends on genre and if it's lower YA or older YA of course.

2) How do I ask XYZ publisher to publish my book????
You don't. Sorry. You must first get a literary agent, unless of course you are dealing with a very small publisher that will accept submissions. In either case, you will need a query.

3) An agent? I don't wanna be an actress silly! What do you mean agent?
An literary agent's job is to pitch books to editors at major publishers. They have connections you don't. The trick is to get one to want to take you on as a client. This can be very difficult, but it has been done (or else you wouldn't be reading books silly!).

4) Do I have to pay for said agent?
No. A REAL AGENT WILL NOT CHARGE YOU UP FRONT. They will, however, ask for so much of your advance, earnings, foreign sales, etc. Normally 10-15%.

5)How do I find a agent?
There are a plethora of resources on the web. My favorites are:

and blogs

6) So..I send them my manuscript?
No. Primarily you will send them a query letter, and maybe a synopsis/a few sample pages.

7) What the heck is a query? Is that British?
A query is like a pitch to an agent explaining what your novel is about, who you are, and why they want you/you want them.

I won't go into the basics here, but I will link to some valuable resources for beginers.

for the ultimate beginer:

and editing that query:

WARNING: If you have carefully read these entries you will know this, but DON'T BLIND CC A ZILLION AGENTS, ADDRESS YOUR EMAIL (or letter, because some agents still only accept paper queries) "DEAR AGENT" OR QUERY AN AGENT YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT. IT WILL RESULT IN AN AUTOMATIC REJECTION.

I don't know if "query" is British...

8) So what's next?

In the coming hours/days/months, you will get a response from the agent. Or not. Sometimes agents have a policy of no response=rejection.

But it they do respond you will receive one of the following (from least desirable to most desirable):

-A FORM REJECTION: this means that this agent does not think your work is right for them, but "this is a subjective business, and you should keep writing". It also means either they're too busy to tell you why they rejected your query or really have nothing constructive to say and don't want to waste their time or yours.

-A PERSONALIZED REJECTION: very rare, but still not extinct, a personalized rejection may give you insight to the flaws of your query, why the agent doesn't want your work, or even possibly potential flaws with your work. Take whatever they say and try to utilize it.

-A PARTIAL REQUEST (W/ SYNOPSIS): As the name implies, you're halfway there! The agent is interested in your pitch/ sample pages and would like to see either half your book/ about fifty pages. In a couple months they will get back to you with either a request for a full, a critique, or a flat rejection. Of course, if you do get rejected you want to use that critique to the fullest to improve your work. But sometimes form rejections happen even for partials. At that point, you need to start querying again and/or assess your work, invest in more beta readers, or trunk the manuscript and start something new.

*SYNOPSIS: A barebones description of everything that happens in your book, revealing the ending and the entire story arc. Normally 2-3 pages.

-A FULL (W/ OR W/O SYNOPSIS): Same as partial except for the whole shebang. Some agents will skip the partial and initially request the full.

9) And then what???I mean, if I don't get rejected?

Then you might just get offered representation. Or they might ask you to revise and resubmit. And if you chose to sign with the agent, they will start pitching your books to editors...

And that's the road to publishing.

So, this definitely summed up my initial querying experience. Does anyone else have anything to add? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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