Before You Hit Send & A Little Query Etiquette for 2014

Here are a few things I didn’t know a little over a year ago when I began querying. Some things I learned from other writers and some things I learned the kinda hard way. Cheers to you not making silly mistakes and to getting an agent in 2014.

Before you hit “send.”

Agent: Is agent’s name spelled correctly? Are you suuuure?

Address: Is agent’s email address in To: line correct? Does it correspond to the agent’s name in your heading?

Personalization: If applicable: have you deleted the last queried agent’s personalized greeting/reason you’re querying them specifically? If you’re adding personalized info, is it spell and grammar checked?

If you screw it up: It happens, let it go. But really, try not to be query-send crazy. Don’t hit send until you’ve double or triple checked.

Pages: This is another big one where you don’t want to mess up. Always double check the agent sub guidelines on their page of the agency website. Do they want query only? First chapter? First three chapters? First fifty pages? A nice thing to have at the end of your query as a reminder is something like “Per your agency guidelines, I’ve pasted the first five pages of my manuscript along with a one page synopsis.” And this should go without saying, but while checking that you’ve followed the guidelines and YES added your pages to the query, be sure the agent is looking for mss in your category/genre, otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time. 

Bonus: Mnemonic device to remember above is “AARP.” Agents Acquire Pretty Pages. Agent, Address, Personalization, Pages.

When you get a query rejection:

DO NOT email the agent back. Aint nobody got time for that. That’s all.

When you get a full or partial rejection:

IMO, it’s okay to send a short thank you if the agent has given you specific feedback on your pages or story, or requested you send them future work. For me, it only felt right and professional to thank them for their time. HOWEVER, refrain from using your email to ask questions. (What can I do to make you love me? Are you sure you didn’t connect with the voice? Should I revise? Well, what if I change the ending?)

Question: What happens when you ask a specific question or ask for more insight on the downfalls of your novel after being rejected?

Answer: Usually nothing. The agent has already taken the time to read some or a great deal of your manuscript. They’ve taken the time to reply with or without personal feedback. Don’t ask for more. Said agent is busy with clients and future clients. Take notes if you got some, then move on. Because hey, your future agent awaits.

Bonus: This evening, nurse your rejection stomachache with a piece of cake and scoop of ice cream while you do research on more dreamy agents. If the rejection today was a form email, add a cup of hot chocolate spiked with Baileys. If you don’t drink, add homemade whipped creme.

When you get a partial or full request:

Upon request, send your partial or full in a timely manner. Your materials should be ready to go. One page shiny synopsis-check! Full, polished ms in a word doc-check! Send the requested materials according to agent’s specifications. If you’re unsure about sending pages pasted onto email or attached, re-read the email and check out their website submission guidelines, if needed. If you’re still unsure and wish to avoid wasting back and forth emailing time, I think it’s an OK bet to paste anything less than fifty pages or five chapters onto the email and attach all full manuscripts as word documents. If it’s not correct, the agent will request another format.

Bonus: You got a request! Hooray! DO: a little dance, buy an e-book in your genre, tell your friends via text, phone, person, or DM (not by social media). DONT: Send the request, then read your ms again and ask agent two days later if you can re-send the updated without three typos version.

If you receive an offer: 

ALWAYS email every agent who has your manuscript partial or full to let them know you’ve received an offer.  No agent wants to take the time to read your manuscript, love it or hate it, when it’s already spoken for. Would you take a day off work to help a cute guy move if he’s got a boyfriend? Do you want to peruse a menu full of 86’d items? Imagine reading a CP’s book and then sending your notes back but they say, “Oh sorry–I actually shelved that!”

Use the subject line: OFFER OF REP RECEIVED or OFFER RECEIVED ON YOUR TITLE HERE. You can also send “I’ve got an offer” emails to recently queried agents as well. It gets your query out of their queue, saves them time, and also gives them the chance to request a look at your manuscript too.

Bonus: An offer calls for a celebration (out to dinner with family or buy a new t-shirt that says GOAL ACHIEVER) and then another bigger celebration once (if) you accept an offer. (out to dinner without kids or with friends who’ll buy you all the drinks).

Final Query Etiquette Tip: In the eye of rejection, remain professional and always be kind to yourself–because dude, you wrote a whole book!