Pointers from the Pros: Author Stephanie Feagan on Querying

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.

I spoke at the 30th annual Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando, Fla.  Although I couldn’t go to all the faboo sessions being offered, I took a ton of notes at the classes I was lucky enough to attend—and I’m sharing some of those tips with my lovely blog readers. (<—Thanks for being so fabulous, BTW!)

The first afternoon of the conference, I attended the PRO Retreat, which was stockpiled with talks by awesome agents, editors, and authors.  *ahem—Donald Maass much?*

Here is author Stephanie Feagan’s advice when it comes to querying and revising.

THE QUERY ITSELF

  • Get feedback on it from writer friends.
  • It doesn’t matter if you win awards. It’s nice, but if the agent doesn’t think she can sell your book, then it having won an award isn’t going to change that.
  • She says to keep track of queries—who you’ve sent them to, what they’ve requested, responses, etc.
    • It’s normal to not hear back from just a query, but it NOT normal not to hear back with partials and fulls.

Nice, but not always necessary.

WHERE TO START WHEN QUERYING

  • Absolute Write Water Cooler
    • This is the first place she went [the forums].
    • It has agents listed, and people write down their experiences with them.
    • You can get a feel for how agents work.
  • AgentQuery
    • Agents have their own accounts and can sign in and update it [in terms of submission guidelines and genre preferences].
  • Agency Web sites
    • Usually, the most up-to-date info for submissions is listed there.
  • Verla Kay’s Blue Boards
    • This is like Absolute Write Water Cooler
  • Literary Rambles
    • [Casey McCormick spotlights agents by compiling interviews/profiles done with them from all over the Web.]
  • Publisher’s Marketplace
    • [Weekly listings of what agents have sold.]
    • [You must pay to use this site.]
  • QueryTracker
    • [A site where you can actually submit your query to an agent and track your experiences with requests/rejections.]
    • [Or, you can just go in there and read the comments of others who’ve done this, to get a feel for agents response times, likes/dislikes, etc.]
  • WeBook
    • [Works like QT:] Put in query letter, and it sends it to the agent you want it to.
    • They charge for it now.
  • AAR [Association of Authors’ Representatives]
    • It lists reputable agents and info about them.
    • [*However, it should be noted that just because an agent is NOT a member of AAR does NOT mean he or she is NOT reputable.]
    • It has a good list of questions to ask agents when you do get “the call,” [as well as many other helpful writer resources.]

DON’Ts

  • Don’t try the “throw-and-see-if-it-sticks approach” when querying.
    • [Where you query agents without researching them and make little changes to your MS, based on whatever feedback you can get your hands on.]
    • This  is desperate.
  • Don’t query multiple projects.
  • Don’t keep tweaking your manuscript.
    • If it’s ready to be out there, you should not keep revising.
    • Also, she says it’s much better just to scrap it rewrite the whole thing—that’s what she did.
      • This way, you don’t have to keep trying to shift around details to make it all “fit”—you’ve got a fresh palette.

Get a fresh start.

Want more? Here’s a post I did on How and Where to Find Literary Agents.

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