The process of querying: Finding an agent

So you wrote a book, now what?

If you’re at the stage where you wrote a book, you’ve already edited it a few times, you’ve had someone proof read it, you’ve editing it again… you’ve potentially hired a novel consultant and ironed out some details… you might be looking at your work and thinking IT’S TIME!

I hear you! Whilst I am a proud Indie Author, I am also someone who strives to find an agent and go down the commercial publishing route. I long to work with a team and get involved in the mainstream publishing world and I have queried 1 book (which didn’t land any interest) and I’m currently querying another. So, how does it work?

You might be surprised to learn that querying is as time consuming and brain-melting as writing your first draft. Or maybe you knew it would be hard, and you’re mentally prepared! Either way, the hard work doesn’t stop once you decide to find an agent.

Research

Once you’ve finished your manuscript you will want to do a lot of research into agents. A great way to find agents to send your book to is the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook which is republished every year. The book is helpful in many ways (including giving examples of what to put in your covering letter and query letter) but, obviously, out of date as soon as it’s published! A great way to find agents is potentially looking at the authors you enjoy reading and finding out who represents them, and also do some Google searches and look on Twitter; where agents love to talk about the kinds of books they’re looking for!!

Finding the right agent is, of course, the most important thing. There’s no point contacting someone who is interested in crime novels if you write horror. It will be a waste of everyone’s time! Look for the agents who enjoy the kinds of books you write!

My personal advice is to make a list of the agents you find, with a note of who to contact and what they require to be sent – as this can vary agent to agent. If you enjoy making spreadsheets this part will be fun! 😛

Requirements

Whilst every agent does have a specific list of things they require for submission I’ve found that having these items will help you in the long run. If you’re anything like me (scatter brained), you’ll probably end up creating these documents once you’ve finished your book. If you want to be better than me (which I recommend), try creating these documents as you write and edit! It will make it a lot easier when it comes to querying:

Query Cover letter/ Email – This will be mostly standard and you’ll just need to change who it’s addressed to, with perhaps a few other amendments based on what an agent wants to know about your book. Definitely research how to write a query letter and don’t be afraid to find help. I personally have received help from fellow writers, professional consulters and a NYT best-selling author who I paid to help me!

Elevator Pitch – It can be a great idea to work on your elevator pitch before you’ve even started writing your book, to keep you on the straight and narrow! A zippy one liner about what it’s all about is both beneficial to you to remind you what you’re writing but also helpful to have on hand should an agent ask you to provide a condensed idea of what you’re work is. 

Compelling blurb – We all know how cool and snappy book blurbs can sound. After the book cover the blurb is the place readers go to check out if a story is for them. Take a look at the blurb on a few of your favourite books; what do they all have in common? Try to emulate those when writing your own and don’t be afraid to write a few different ones and edit them until you’re satisfied! 

Short synopsis (1 paragraph/1-page/3-page) – The synopsis is the writer’s White Whale. It’s also a very important document which, as you can see above, needs to be prepared in varying lengths. Personally, like a fool, I always end up writing a synopsis after I’ve finished everything else, which means having to go back through the whole story just to write down the flow of the book… to then create a synopsis. I have a very non-linear was of thinking and I always kick myself for it. I’d suggest working on a synopsis as you go, which you can then edit as you need it! A synopsis should include all the details of the story, including all the secrets and plot twists that happen. You don’t want to hide anything from the agent you’re writing to – you want to share all the fun elements of the story! Don’t forget: Your synopsis and whatever version of your book you’re submitting will need to be formatted correctly (which can impact page length); usually 12pt font with double line spacing. 

Pages of your manuscript (First 5 pages/ First 3 chapters/ First 30 pages/ Full manu.) – All agents will ask you for an example of your work to be sent to them up front. This can range from the first 5 pages to the full manuscript so make sure your whole book is finished and formatted before you start querying. The requirements are usually: 

  • Your font should be black, size 12 and in Times New Roman or Arial
  • Set your margins to 1 inch on all sides
  • Create a title page with the Book title in the centre, with your name and contact details underneath
  • Double space your entire manuscript
  • Add a header with your name, the book title and your email address
  • Add page numbers 

I’d definitely recommend you Google how to do this as well, as there are videos showing how to format Word (which can be tricky, depending on what version you have!!). 

 

This list is probably not definitive but I hope it helps anyone who is thinking about querying! A good mindset is, by far, the most important tool to have when putting yourself through the process!! 

Good luck!

 

Sam

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Sam Cummings

Just a girl hell bent on carving a writing career out of an over-active imagination and a semi-firm grasp of the English Language.