Before I share all of the wonderful tips and helpful links I’ve discovered so far, I thought I should first come clean about where I am in the process of querying for publication or, rather, querying for a literary agent.
Queries sent to date: 20
Agents remaining on my TBR (to be researched)* list: 15
Queries pending due to my yet-to-be-written synopsis: 7
Quickest responses times
20: number of minutes it took to get my first form rejection letter
24: number of hours for an agent to request my full MS
Yes, it’s that subjective!
So far the response breakdown of the 20 I’ve sent has been as follows:
Form rejection letters: 3
Personal rejection letters: 8 (incl. a handwritten letter by an agent which I thought was nice even if she did pass)
Awaiting to hear: 2
Partial requests: 2
Full MS requests: 2 (and no, the partial and fulls are not the same agents)
Now you may be wondering why, if I have agents with pages in hand, I’m not done querying. The answer is simple (and I’ve read it on a number of agent blogs so it must be true!). Until you sign with someone you should keep sending things out. I believe this for two reasons. The first is that you may get some insight into what you’re doing right or wrong based on the kinds of responses you’re getting back from people. Apply that to future queries. Secondly, the whole process takes a VERY long time. Some agencies don’t get back to you on a one-page query until 8 weeks. A partial or full? That can take 12 weeks easy. In short, it can take 20 weeks just to find out someone is passing on a project and then you’re back to the starting line.
I also still have a lot of work to do. For starters, my TBR list keeps growing as I notice more and more agents selling YA novels as listed in Publishers Marketplace. I approach this with both optimism and caution. YA is increasing in popularity so some agents are jumping on the bandwagon but may not entirely love the genre while others are slowly being converted. Not everyone on my TBR list will be queried. It depends what I dig up.
For instance, my story is contemporary YA but paranormal and fantasy YA is really trending right now so it makes my research a little more challenging to find agents who are representing works like mine. There’s also the question of whether to query an agent where you feel synergy (You love their blog! They rep your genre!) but, truthfully, they have different tastes in books. On his blog, Nathan Bradford, literary agent at Curtis Brown, suggests that when in doubt, send a query. Be prepared, however, that the “It’s just not for me,” response may be forthcoming.
The other cog in the wheel is that I need to write my synopsis in order to query a number of agents still on my list. Am I dreading the synopsis? Not entirely. It’s just another thing that needs to get done. The problem, however, is that I just discovered the song “Lazy Eye” by the Silversun Pickups and am stalking Missy Higgins on i-Tunes. While not a big music listener when writing non-fiction, it’s become my lifeline when writing fiction so now every time I sit down at my computer words come out, they just aren’t the ones I should, perhaps, be writing. What this means it the following:
Word count of synopsis: 0
Word count on my next story: 15,000
So the good news is, “Hey agents, I already have a second story outlined and in the works!” The bad news is they may not hear about it if don’t get my damn synopsis written and query them. And so the pursuit continues…
*Note: I've researched FAR more than I've listed here but when querying for publication you're looking for not only an agent to represent the particular work you have in hand but, hopefully, a career. You also want someone who is, of course, the right "match." For this reason, many agents I've researched I've chosen not to query. More on this topic to come.