Tuesday, July 19, 2011

With querying comes rules

I’m currently in the stages of editing but with that comes the dreaded query and synopsis. Though I say dreaded it can be fun – at the beginning. You will experience SEVERAL revisions and even then someone can pick at it until there is nothing left.

Remember this – keep your voice. Do not lose yourself in the edits.

But I’m not here to talk about how to query (for tips see my right hand sidebar). I’m here to discuss the rules, guidelines, no-no’s.

There are so many.

Every agent is different and as a writer and prepare you must put your thinking skills to the test.

Does the agent prefer a more professional approach or do they like a side of creative?

Do they like you starting with a rhetorical question or would they rather have you just dive into the fun?

Did they ask for 5 pages or 50?

Do they except you to email the query or mail it?

So many things you have to ask yourself. Querying is daunting. You must take this seriously. Would you send your resume out in a mass email? No. (If you said yes I’m surprised you were hired…).

I’m an avid QueryTracker watcher. I love to see how agents are reacting. If they’re feeling anyone’s work of if it’s not hitting the mark. I change my tactics if the agent is offering tips or telling me their tired (yes I stalk them on twitter). It helps me gauge what I should write. After all this is much as luck as it is hard work.

Here is my recent problem.

People aren’t listening. I’m reading guidelines and in the comments someone says the agent emailed to ask for the first five pages. They were elated. Problem? That was part of their initial guidelines. The reader/writer wasn’t careful. Those are marks against you. Though their interested in your work you must be interested enough in them to do your research.

It makes it harder for others who follow rules to get in the door. The agent becomes tired. Stops asking for queries all together. It’s important to follow rules. In this case, they weren’t meant to be broken.

Do you follow the rules? How do you decide who to query?

25 comments:

Emy Shin said...

Love this post, Jen! The rules are there for a reason, and yes, it can be frustrating when there's no one agreed upon rule but it's rather left up to the agent's discretion -- but still. The most important thing is to do your homework.

Miranda Hardy said...

I'm a rule follower. I'd do the same thing you do. I can't help it.

Trisha Leaver said...

I did a fair amount of research on the agents I queried -- what books they repped, how often they took on new clients, if they wanted sample pages attached, etc . . . You are right, it saves both you and the agent time if you follow the rules!

Sarah said...

No sense in not following the rules when it comes to querying. There's so much information out there and finding and following the rules for each agent shows you're paying attention. I don't have much sympathy for those who get angry about the different rules for each agent--you're trying to find someone with whom to form a long-lasting professional partnership. Why wouldn't you want to treat that person with courtesy and individualization right from the start? That's what you'd expect from them.

For writers who complain vociferously about having to follow each agent's seemingly idiosyncratic preferences(and I'm NOT referring to the Emy above, who just said it's frustrating but endorsed following the rules), I sometimes want to ask--would you like your agent to just send the same form letter pitch for your book to every editor, or would you want her/him to know each editor's preferences and individualize the pitch?

Leigh Ann said...

Aaaand this is why, even though my WIP is all but completed, I am in a state of pre-query paralysis. I just can't wrap my head around it.

I think I'm going to self-pub. *sigh*

YOU are made of awesome, my friend. Thanks for the glittery happy luck dust!

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Great post and so, so true. You gotta show the agent you're at least capable of following their guidelines. Awesome Jen, but I never expect less:)

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

omg, this drives me crazy when i see it on QT! I also get irritated when people comment on how they queried, and didn't hear anything for two weeks, and so nudged or requeried, EVEN THOUGH the agent's website says TAT is 4 weeks. I know if i were an agent and people were ignoring my TAT, i'd be real tempted to turn into a no response agent

Matthew MacNish said...

Ooh, that's a really good point, Jen. With so many fish in the sea, it's no wonder agents get fatigued.

Em-Musing said...

The whole query process is daunting. Just when you think you've found the answer, along comes another agent's comment or advise that makes you question your query letter.

Johanna Garth said...

Good luck with your querying process Jen. I have a feeling you'll follow the rules and hit it off with the perfect agent to rep your work!

Bish Denham said...

I try to be very careful about following instructions. I'll read them several times and ever take notes just to make sure I've got them right.

Hope you querying is a HUGE success.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Awesome insights! When we follow the rules, it benefits everybody and keeps THE MACHINE running smoothly. :) Good luck with editing and querying!

chasing empty pavements said...

Love this post. The entire process after writing a novel is terrifying and overwhelming. I keep telling myself to buckle down and just do it..yet I always find reasons not to! I need more inspirational people like you to kick my butt into gear!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Yes, Jen! Great post!

I'm querying right now and I find I can't send out more than 2 or 3 queries at a time because I want to be so careful not to make any mistakes. Honest mistakes do happen, though ... it's ignorance that's tough on the agent and then on other writers.

Amy

Summer Ross said...

Great post Jen. I haven't wrote and submitted a query yet- I play mostly in short stories. But I am working on a novel now, so that might change.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules!
I bet a lot of people send the wrong stuff. And I do wonder how some people get hired...

Clarissa Draper said...

Fortunetly, I've never had to query but it would be daunting for me if I did. I joined query tracker but I could never figure it out.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I definitely follow the rules, and always try to follow them as closely as possible. I don't understand why people don't - shouldn't we want the best chance possible? :)

Kristin Rae said...

I'm a total rule follower by nature (except when it comes to cooking for some reason... I often stray from recipes), but thankfully I'm not at the querying stage just yet!!
I'd probably just take it slow, and focus on one agent at a time, meeting their requirements.
Good luck!

Michelle Fayard said...

This is excellent advice, Jen, and it clearly shows you are living proof about making your own success. When I read a book I love, I try to learn who the agent was. Then I start researching them, reading books by other authors they rep and following their online buzz. If I think my book would be a good match, I’ll query. I’ll have to let you know if this works. :)

Michelle

Jennifer Hillier said...

It's definitely a good idea to respect the agent's guidelines and submit accordingly. You definitely don't want to annoy them before they've even looked at your stuff!

Great post, Jen.

Nicole Zoltack said...

There's no point to querying if you aren't going to take the time to do some serious research first. It just wastes your time, and the agent's.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

great discussion starter. I usually follow the rules, I mainly try to adjust to human behavior first and foremost. As you were going back and forth on editor's inclinations and how the navigate them. I was thinking how I do that with others as well, some rules should be broken- others, nooo way.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

It's so tough because sometimes people have gotten noticed even though they weren't following the rules--but always it was because their book was just so good and would be snapped up by others anyway. It's tricky though to know if your book is one of those. Whims of the market and all that. Best bet is to just follow the rules!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've seen writers get excited because an agent asked for the first chapter. So, of course, they have to mention this on QT--only for someone to point out that it wasn't a request. That's what that agent requires be sent with the query and the writer was lucky the agent didn't just reject them based on ignoring the querying guidelines (okay, more like rules).