Are you about to begin querying agents for your novel or nonfiction manuscript? With literally tens of thousands of agents representing books, the process may seem overwhelming. Some people begin this endeavor without a plan, thinking, “I will just query every single agent I can get an email address for and see what sticks…”
This is not the right plan. Please don’t do this!
It is apparent when a writer queries an agent and has not done his or her homework. For example, I am clear on all of my web listings, website, and social media posts that I do not accept erotica. And still, I receive an erotica-based novel at least two or three times a week (often with the message, “I know you are the right agent for me!”).
Um, sorry…I’m really not. There is definitely someone out there but it isn’t me.
There is no right or wrong way to pick agents you want to query, but there are some steps you will want to follow on this journey. Here are three to consider:
Use Author Websites and Resources – Take advantages of resources available to you such as Querytracker.net, Duotrope, Reedsy.com and The Writer’s Market book. These resources will help you narrow down the right agents for your material, whether you are writing a thriller, YA fantasy novel, mental health memoir, or a nonfiction book on leadership. No matter your subject matter, there is an agent that represents it – your job, however, is to do the research before you begin querying.
Research, Research, Research – Once you start finding agents that may be a potential match, take your research a step further by reviewing their website, past books they have represented, or seeing if they have interviewed for any writing-related articles (easily done through a Google search). This gives you a chance to learn more about the agent’s personality, likes and dislikes, and you may even find specific details on wish-list items or what they are searching for “right now.”
Personalize Your Request – You have your list of agents ready to go and now it is time to tailor each query specifically for the agent. I know within a few seconds if someone is sending me a generic query, just like I know when the writer has not read any of my instructions or areas of interest. Tailoring queries personalizes them and lets the agent know you actually took some time to discover if the two of you could be a good fit.
There are so many incredible literary agents out there, each one offering a unique perspective, personality, and experience. I believe my clients enjoy working with me because I bring a perspective from both the agent side and also as an author. I have been exactly where you are – searching for agents, perfecting the query letter, and beginning the intimidating process of querying. I also know the excitement you feel when you get an email asking for your manuscript. Unfortunately, I am also familiar with the pain that comes along with rejection.
Rejection is part of the submission process and I prepared for it beforehand. The sheer volume of queries an agent receives is sometimes overwhelming. During a last call out on social media for queries, I received over 150 emails with pitches/query letters within a few days.
Of those, I went on to sign two writers.
As you see, the rejection rate is high. Some agents I know receive between 50 and 100 queries a week and only sign a handful of authors each year, which is why it is crucial that you make a comprehensive list of potential agents (that are searching for your subject matter) and you query them in batches.
You may be wondering, “Why not query them all at the same time?” The answer is…for a couple of reasons. First, my suggestion to you is to query in batches of say six to eight agents at a time. Then, be patient.
I know, I know - this is not easy.
Often times, you will get feedback and sometimes you will just get a standard rejection with no additional information. When you do get feedback, use it! Tweak whatever needs tweaking before you send out your next batch.
After my first few rejections for my memoir, I decided to rewrite my entire query letter and overview in my proposal to make it more powerful. I noticed in my second batch of queries that more agents responded positively and requested my proposal and sample chapters. More feedback led to more changes and eventually – four months later – I found an incredible agent. My memoir was published on May 4, 2021 and is called Chronically Fabulous.
Are you curious if we might be a good fit? Here is a quick snapshot of my interests. If this falls in line with your subject matter, you can query me at email@example.com. If you need help with your query letter, book proposal, mapping out your book or think you need a coach, be sure to check my Services tab.
I am mainly interested in building my nonfiction author list.
Memoir, narrative nonfiction, investigative journalism, platform-driven nonfiction, diet and health, Christian spirituality, inspirational, food and cookbooks, self-help, advice, and humor.
Adult fiction (commercial women’s fiction, upmarket fiction, apocalyptic, thrillers, fantasy), children's books and upper YA.
Marisa is not seeking historical romance, erotica, or poetry.
Some of my favorite books:
Kitchen Table Wisdom
Against All Grain
Life from Scratch
Game of Thrones
One Second After
The Prayer of Jabez
Carry On, Warrior
Brain on Fire
The Last Black Unicorn