Querying Travelers, Postmortem

My previous postmortem was for the process of writing Travelers. It occurred to me there were lessons I learned in querying it as well. Although technically I'm not finished with the querying process, I'm close enough that I think I can examine it.

What Went Right
  1. Querying statistics - As I've said before, I like statistics. Keeping track of who I've queried, what batch they were in, what I sent them, and if/when they responded not only helped me to stay organized, but also kept me going. I don't like rejections, but at least when they come I get to update my Excel sheet.
  2. Queried in batches - A lot of people recommended sending queries in batches of 5-10. This is extremely good advice. It gives you a chance to evaluate your query package based on the responses you're getting. It is much easier to stay organized and make sure you send the right things to the right people. And it gives you a more-or-less steady flow of incoming responses.
  3. Enlisted help with snail mail - I have queried something like 60 agents, half of which prefer or require snail mail. I live in Thailand, making this an expensive venture (plus we only have A4 paper out here, and I'd hate to get rejected because my paper was the wrong size). Fortunately, I had my friend MattyDub to help me with that. I couldn't have done this without him.

What Went Wrong
  1. Queried all the best agents first - As you research agents, you'll find that some of them look like perfect fits for you and what you like to write. You should be able to separate the agents you query into an A list and a B list. Then in each batch you send out, you should have a mix of agents from both lists, so that when you get to your third or fourth batch, you still have some A list agents to query with your new, improved query letter. I didn't do this. So when my query letter was finally good enough to grab someone's attention, all my A list agents were used up.
  2. Not enough research - I did a lot of research before writing my query letter, but I could have done more. Not just research on agents, but mostly research on writing query letters. If you're thinking about sending out that query letter, here's what I recommend you do first:
    • On Nathan Bransford's blog, read every post listed under "The Essentials" on the sidebar.
    • Read at least 100 posts on Query Shark and Miss Snark and the "Face-Lifts" on Evil Editor. When you start to see patterns, don't stop. When you are able to predict patterns, then try fixing your own letter.
  3. Not enough critiques - Before I sent out my first query letter, I had some of my friends read it. As much as I love them, this wasn't very useful (except for one friend who had taken a class related to the business of writing). What I needed was a serious critique group. There are lots of these online, but here's a couple that I've found useful. These are places you can throw your query at again and again until you get it right (and you should):
    • The forums on AQConnect, specifically the Query Critique Corner.
    • Evil Editor (again). The turnaround time is pretty quick here. Query Shark is another good one, but she's way backed up at the moment, and you probably won't see your letter anytime soon.

1 comment:

Natalie Whipple said...

Ah, this all sounds so familiar! I think I made a lot of the same mistakes my first time. Now into my third, I know better, have gotten more responses...but still no luck.

Here's to pressing onward!