Do not, I repeat do not query your novel before you’ve written it. That is a huge no-no, why? Because agents and publishers need to see your work before they sign you, they don’t have time to just take your word that you’re writing the best thing to ever hit shelves. (Even if I totally believe you). I talked in my previous post about finding the #amquerying tag on Twitter before sitting down and beginning to write. I thought I’d share why I’m glad I found the trenches of querying before the adventures of writing and why I’d encourage you to do the same.
You already know the first step of publishing a book: getting it written, unfortunately, that is only the first step. Depending on how you want to publish your book there’s going to be a lot of other factors in-between writing and seeing your book in stores. If you’re heading in the traditional publishing route, you need to decide whether you want to bag yourself an agent or you’re going to pitch straight to publishers. For me, I plan to go the agent route. No matter who you choose there’s a couple of things that need to be thought about before, such as who.
There are plenty of agents out there all repping different genres, all looking for different things. I’m not saying to start a conversation with them now, “Hey agent, you know you’re looking for a middle-grade fantasy? Yeah, I have one that’s perfect for you… can you wait a year?” Probably not the best idea, but that doesn’t mean that while you’re scrolling through Twitter and you see an agent that is looking for a genre you’re writing or is promoting a book that is close to yours you can’t follow them. Create a list of the agents who look pleasant to you, so when the time comes you already know who you’d prefer in your corner.
The Querying Process
The other thing you can be thinking about is what you will send them. I know, I know, you send them your MS (manuscript). Actually, you only send part of your MS most likely the first ten pages or one chapter (it differs from agent to agent). What an agent will first see is a query letter or synopsis or both. A query letter is an explanation of the plot of your book but without giving away the ending. Kind of like a longer version of a blurb you see on the back of a cover. I would check out Query Shark if you want to know more about queries. A synopsis, however, encompasses everything including the ending.
Whether you’re pitching to an agent or a publishing house they’re going to want to look at either one of these before deciding to even take a look at your MS. Again, I repeat you don’t have to write these now. It would be rather difficult to write about the entire plot of your book without actually have written it. My point is the more you know about the querying process now, the less of a shock it will be when it’s time.
You know the great thing about mistakes? You learn from them. You know the great things about other people making mistakes? You don’t have to make them. Now that’s unfair, there are no ill wishes against my co-writers or authors. But… when an agent tweets tips that talk about authors using too many adverbs, or not pacing the plot properly, I’m gonna listen. There’s a big writing community on Twitter and that includes agents. Just because you’re still in the writing phase does not mean you shouldn’t congregate around #askagent #agenttip #querytip etc. When you know the problem you tend to look out for it, meaning less clean up when editing.
The reality is reality sucks. When looking through querying you’re going to find the good and the bad… a lot of bad. Not everyone is going to love your work. Thinking about this before writing may seem counterproductive but the more you write, the more you fall in love with your characters, settings, the story it hopefully won’t be too much of a blow when querying comes.
Try to understand the real reason that you’re writing. If it’s for fame and money then you may want to pick a different career. Not everyone makes it and the pay can be low. I’m not saying don’t be ambitious, I’ve already planned for Jude Law to be narrating the audiobook and can see the series of movies playing in my mind. Yet the thing I’m most excited about is people just reading my work. For my story to bring a smile to someone’s face. And if that’s all, if just one person reads my work and smiles, well I’m okay with that reality.