For months I have wanted to post some advice on querying. You may have already seen the advice I'm going to give. However, I've come across many writers who query without getting up-to-date advice and make mistakes. The worst that happens is the writer gets a form rejection. The best that happens is the rare agent who will tell you what mistake you made so you can improve. But why get rejections when you could be getting requests?
All agents have manuscript wishlists and guidelines. The wishlists may be on their agency agent page, their own website, or on the Manuscript Wishlist website.
Common guidelines include what they want in the query package. It will make your life easier if you have the following already saved in a folder.
Do you follow up?
In short, NO!
Generally, once your query is off to the agent, you let it be until they respond. There are agents who accept query inquries, but it's rare. Querying has been slow for the past three years. It will take some time for most agents to get back to you. Have patience. Query more agents, write your next book, distract yourself.
You got a response, do you follow up?
In short, NO!
The vast majority of rejections are form rejections. Often personal rejections may not give specific advice for improvement. Emailing the agent or DM'ing via social media to plead for personal response is generally frowned upon.
Obviously, if the response is a request or asking for contact, then of course you follow-up!
If you have an offer in hand, then nudging (a follow-up) is considered appropriate.
Don't have agents be the first reader of your manuscript. Get readers for your manuscript and get feedback before querying. You may be nowhere near ready to query and then you blow your shot. Agents typically frown upon getting second queries on the same story they rejected, even if rewritten.
Get feedback on your query package from other querying and recently agented (seriously recently, as in the past year or two) writers who have been around the block.
Query using a currently accepted query letter format. There are many blogs and resources on query letter format - but make sure the advice is within the past couple of years.
Query following agent guidelines - synopsis the length they ask for, the number of pages they ask for you to send (or none at all if they are query letter only), etc.
Response times are long, invest in Query Tracker to have an idea when you might expect a response.
Accept the response as given and move on.
Get yourself a group of fellow querying writers
Ideally, you'll find yourself a group of writers who are querying, who have been querying, who have successfully queried (that means groups with agents authors who stick around and give advice). These groups are a lifesaver and are available on many social media platforms.
Good luck! I can't wait to congratuate you on your requests, offers, and announcement of rep!
Writer of spec fic.