Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chapter Eight: Record of Queries

During my research for ideas to make my query letter more intriguing, I've come across a few interesting bits of information. I can't vouch for their accuracy but they make sense so I'm passing them along.

One point is that almost everybody wants to write a novel and talks about it every chance they get. I'm definitely inclined to agree with this observation because it seems every time I mention to someone I'm a writer, I immediately hear a story about how that person's always thought about writing a book. An acquaintance of mine talked for years about writing a children's book. I suggested, half-joking and half-tired of hearing her talk about it, that she type the words "Once upon a time..." into her computer. Then she would have something to add on to, revise, and edit. Of course, those four words never got put down on a page and her book never got beyond the talking stage. According to one of the online sites I visited, only 2% of talkers actually finish a novel. So, I'm pleased that I've done what 98% of wanna-be writers don't do - I finished a manuscript. Congratulate yourself if you're in that elite 2% who started out with an idea, a couple of words, and persevered.

The other bit of information I came across is really worth considering as I go through the process of querying agents. Taking into account all the reasons agents reject query letters, one online source suggested sending out at least 50 queries - and 100-150 queries if I can find that many agents who work in my genre. I've always wondered how many queries are enough so this puts a number on it. Finally, I know. Since I prefer "overkill" in pretty much everything I do, sending out the max number definitely appeals to me!

Looking at this level of querying as a major bookkeeping issue, I have a plan for keeping records of info about agents I'm contacting. Searching for 100-150 agents is going to take a while so I'm sending out my e-queries in batches of 15-20. Being careful about whether I'm addressing Ms. or Mr. correctly and double-checking the name spellings take time too. Every site says to get the name right - apparently agents don't like their gender or names garbled. For that matter, neither do I.

I'm making a simple chart - nothing fancy - to help me organize all the info generated by my query process. My columns have the following info:

*Agent's full name and date e-query submitted
*Agency name
*Agent's response and date - form rejection, personal note, request for more material (the ideal response!)
*If requested by agent, date and description of material sent (# of pages, chapters, outline, synopsis, or full manuscript
*Agent's response to the material and date - rejection, request for more material, or that coveted offer of representation!

I can't tell you what a time-saver it is to have all this info handy. I'm using multiple online agent directories so I'll need to be able to check quickly if I've already queried an agent since some agents appear on all the lists.

Last time I sent out queries, I did so in several batches and kept "batch lists" - big mistake - the responses came back in random order so I had to check several lists to find a particular agent. I should've made a master list and arranged the names in alphabetical order.

On a more personal note, my nineteen year old daughter and I are leaving Saturday for a trip to Helsinki, Finland and Tallin, Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia. Our primary destinations are the Hermitage Museum and the palaces of Catherine and Peter. I'll be living my favorite quote - "The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only a page." I'm expecting quite a few pages out of this trip...

Just so you know, I'm taking a copy of my query letter in case I have a flash of inspiration on the plane! As always, I'll have a legal pad handy for notes and ideas sparked by new sights.

Let's get published!

1 comment:

Rebecca McDaris said...

Excellent posting, Pat. I am printing out all your literary ideas and suggestions and saving them in a binder. So informative!

I thought you had already been on your trip. Please have a wonderful time, and I can't wait to read of your adventures!