Querying a novel is challenging. It takes a considerable amount of courage, determination, thick skin and, most importantly of all, research. Don’t waste your time or disappointment by sending your novel out to agents who aren’t in the slightest bit interested in what you’re writing. It’s so vital to choose agents that are a great match for your work. But how do you know? Here’s some questions to answer before you hit ‘send’ on your query.
Is the agent taking on new writers?
This is the first thing to consider. It’s not uncommon for agents to close their list, either because it’s a particularly busy time, or because they have a number of authors to focus on already. Most agents will say on their website if they are closed to submissions, and if they are – don’t bother! Bookmark their page and check back, as they will likely open their list again at some point. But submitting to them when they are closed is a waste of your time, as well as theirs.
Does the agent represent your genre?
What is the agent looking for? What do they represent? There’s no use sending a thriller to an agent who only represents non-fiction, as such there’s no point sending a memoir to an agent who is looking for fantasy and horror. Research the agent, take some time to learn what they want and what they like.
Who else do they represent?
As with the above, this is a great way to find out if your book would be suitable. Most agents will list the authors they represent on their website. Take a look. Are any of their current authors in your genre? Have they published some of your favourite writers? In your query letter you will need to include why you chose that specific agent, and being able to refer to their client list proves you’ve done your research.
What have they read recently?
My favourite way to discover more about agents is to read or watch interviews with them. Often they are asked what books they loved to read. This gives you a deeper insight into the types of book they read for fun, not just for work. It’s also quite a personable insight, which can act as an icebreaker if you have a common interest.
What do they want to receive in your submission?
One thing I’ve learned through querying is that most agents what different things. Some will ask for the full manuscript, others just a few chapters. Some want a three paragraph synopsis, others are happy for a two page synopsis. Some like submission to be emailed, others have an online web form. Make sure you’ve tailored your submission to suit what they want. Otherwise you run the risk of putting them off your submission right away.
What questions do you ask before querying? Share your thoughts below.