Tip 1: Don’t send your manuscript out before it’s ready.
Duh. Even before I sent out my first query, I could have told you that this was The Most Important Thing. But I’d worked on the first draft of my manuscript for what felt like sooooo long. I thought I’d do a quick pass, clean it up, and be ready to query agents within two months—so that’s exactly what I did. And, hooray! Two agents requested a full!…
THEN I woke up in the middle of the night with the horrible realization that the last third of my manuscript WAS IN THE WRONG ORDER.
So, yeah, those two agents did not make offers.
I revised again, and I sent it out again, with much more success.
Tip 2: Put effort into selecting your agents.
I did some serious research. I looked up agents in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, on QueryTracker, on Publisher’s Marketplace, etc. I looked for agents who were actively seeking the kind of story mine was: YA, strong female protagonist, historical fiction, etc.
When I thought agents might be a good fit, I internet-stalked the hell out of them. I read their blogs, followed them on Twitter, and perused their agency’s websites. I looked for clues that they might connect with my story on a deeper level than just categorically. That cut my initial list in half.
Then I queried, and half of those agents requested a full or partial.
Tip 3: Commiserate with other writers.
Querying agents is hard. Rejections came quicker than requests. After a few rejections, I started to wonder if the story I’d been working on for the past forever was any good.
The best remedy for despair is connecting with other writers: writers who have queried successfully, those who are going through the process simultaneously, and those who someday hope to. Read every blog on the querying process ever written. I got some of the best advice and most heartening stories from writers I’ve never met.
Miriam McNamara has her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently deeply involved with a historical fiction manuscript featuring double lives, star-crossed romance, and lady pirates. She lives in Asheville, NC.