Research, research research the agents you want to contact.  Make sure these agents represent your genre, and make sure you follow the agents’ submission guidelines — every agent has a different set of submission requirements.

The fastest way to get a rejection is to query an agent who doesn’t represent your genre or to not follow submission guidelines.  And those are such easy mistakes to avoid!

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When I started writing YA was when I started building my list of agents to query.  Literally, every time I heard of an agent who repped YA, I opened an excel spreadsheet and popped the name, submission guidelines, and links to relevant info in.  The day I started querying, I had >150 names.  (Yes, I will totally share this list with you if you want!)

Other people swear by Query Tracker or AgentQuery.  One resource I swear by is Casey McCormick’s super helpful Agent Spotlight.  She lists all the info she can find about an agent, and she adds a new agent once a week.  This is an amazing tool and saved me hours of scouring the internet (Thanks, Casey!).

Before I sent my queries, I spent a few days going through all the agents on my list.  I picked 10 agents to be my Dream List, 10 to be my B-list, and 10 to be my C-list.  My decision was based on a number of things: interviews, other clients’ thoughts, sales listed on Publishers Marketplace, online presence, etc.  Keep in mind, that these 30 agents were my top 30 (so the top 1/5th of my list), so everyone I queried was someone I really wanted to work with.

For every single agent I contacted, I gathered all interviews/articles/bios/etc. by or about the person that I could find.  This was where Agent Spotlight came in handy! Armed with this information, I tailored each query’s opening line to the fit the agent I was querying.

For example, here is the opening paragraph in the letter I sent Joanna Volpe:

I read in an interview that you seek strong female leads as well as steampunk.  As such, I thought you might enjoy my 90,000 word young adult novel, THE SPIRIT-HUNTERS.

I highly recommend starting your query with an explanation of why you’re querying this agent.***  Why?

  1. It shows you’ve done your research — instantly making you shine in the slush pile.
  2. It shows you are approaching this query in a professional manner.
  3. It shows that what you’ve written is actually something the agent is looking for!  Right off the bat, the agent knows it’s something he/she’ll be interested in.

***Some agents prefer you to start with the hook, so be sure to read interviews/articles/blogs to find out!  If an agent I contacted preferred a hook, then you betcha I started with a hook.

So with my polished letters and my three stacks (dream, B, C), I started sending off my queries!  But I’ll talk more about that tomorrow in Query Submissions.

BOTTOM LINE: Hard work pays, and prepping your query is an instant return on your investment.  For real: Stephanie Meyer’s freak luck is not the norm.

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DREAM BIG!!!

←Part 1: Parts of a Good Query

Part 3: Query Submissions

Part 4: The Calls→