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Querying: are you ready?

I’m going to start this post with a little choose your own adventure type scenario:

So you’ve written your manuscript, given it an edit, and sent it off to betas. Not wanting to sit there twiddling your thumbs, you write your query. You post it somewhere to be torn to bits by your writing friends, or the helpful critiquers of Absolute Write, rewrite the thing seventeen million times, and you’re feeling great about it. It's beautiful. Then your list of agents to query starts to stare at you. You can hear it calling out to you, and you yearn to start sending queries.

Should you:

a) Go ahead and send a couple queries—or hell, maybe even more than a couple. You’re ready enough!

b) Stare yearningly at both your email and list of agents, but ultimately decide to wait.

I hope it’s obvious which option is wiser. (Option b!) And here’s why. Let’s say your comments come back from betas, and although they think your story is fabulous, they see a couple of issues that are going to take some thought to fix. Maybe a character issue, maybe a subplot that’s not quite working. But uh oh, all of a sudden, you get a full request from one of those harmless queries you sent out. And now you’ve only got a few days to fix your problem.


Do you think that doing a fast edit in a few days is going to give you the same results as if you ruminate on it and then give yourself all the time you need to change everything you're unsure about? Or what if the request comes before you’ve received any beta comments at all, and you don’t realize you have a problem until it’s too late?

You love your manuscript, right? And you want it to be published? Pull back on the reins, don’t let your horse out of the gate before the race has even started. You have to adore everything about your manuscript before you can expect an agent to. So take a deep breath and give yourself the best chance you can.

Sidenote: don't forget about the post below this one. You can still win a copy of Break--the contest doesn't end until Wednesday, August 26th. So get your comment in!
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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  1. Ruminate.

    That shall be my word when thinking of querying my as yet unfinished WiP. I know I queried too soon on the project I'm querying now, and even though I know it's a common problem, I should know better.

    The business of getting a lit agent would be much more streamlined if more writers would wait to send their manuscripts until they're REALLY ready.

    Great post!

  2. Agreed with TereLiz.

    I think so many people slave over the query and first chapter or so, then send it out on a wing and a prayer. Never mind that so many agents say the biggest reason they reject queries/partials/fulls is that the author simply wasn't ready, the writing wasn't polished yet.

    It feels good to rack up partial requests, maybe even full requests, and feel like you're 'this close' to getting representation...but if the book isn't ready, you're ruining your own chances! Agents aren't going to read the first few chapters and decide- they read the whole book. They make their decision based on the whole book. Some have said they were considering offering representation until they got to the last few chapters. Scary!

    Why not send out that sweet query with a 100% sweet book to go with it!

    Great post, Kaitlin. It's such a shame when writers with great potential hurt their chances by jumping the gun.

  3. Great advice, Kaitlin. And I love the comments here, too. There are so many ideas I've heard and drafts I've read that have the potential to be something really, really wonderful. But it does require taking a step back to really assess what you have and improve your ms before querying.

  4. I think some early querying problems are because some writers want validation. "See! Someone wants more to see more of my awesome story!"
    Problem: The rest just isn't as awesome b/c it wasn't perfect, and that's what agents want. A great story idea will garner interest, but if the agent sees it would take too much work to get it ready for publishers, they'll pass.

    Nice post, Kaitlin :)


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Item Reviewed: Querying: are you ready? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward