GUEST POST: Three Tips on Querying Agents based on My Recent Experience

Querying (Miriam)As a delighted new client of the lovely Linda Epstein, I am thrilled to share three quick tips on landing a sweet agent.

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.

Good luck!

Headshot MiriamMiriam 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.


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14 responses to “GUEST POST: Three Tips on Querying Agents based on My Recent Experience

  1. Great advice. I queried Sept 1 – trying so hard not to stress and check my email every five seconds!

  2. Great advice, Miriam! So many people jump the gun on sending stuff out when it’s not ready, or not doing enough research. Simply reading an entry in the agent guide, or a spotlight in WD is not enough….dig! Read their blogs, see what people are saying, research who they represent, talk to other writers……good stuff! So happy to have you as my agency mate!! 🙂

  3. Nice advice! I’m not quite ready to query yet, but I’m really nervous. I’m trying to read everything I can on the subject right about now!

    • Miriam

      Congratulations on being almost there! Finishing and revising the actual manuscript is the biggest accomplishment. Sounds like you are doing a great job preparing yourself for the next step. Good luck!!

  4. Planaria Price

    Yeah! rejections suck…..but what I hate more is when they don’t respond……..A quick “thanks but no thanks” email will do….they just have to hit the reply button. I do all the homework, stalk the internet, blogs, etc. send off the polished query, synopsis, etc and nada……….did it get lost in cyber-space? Did their rejection (oh my God! approval) get caught in my spam filter? For me, the not ever knowing is the worst. Does this only happen to me?????? Your turn. Commiserations, please.


    • Miriam

      That does sound frustrating! I’m not sure what the answer is. I did get responses from all the agents I queried, but some of them did take over a month, and the wait drove me crazy! Patience is not my strong point. I wish you better luck as you continue your writing journey!

      • Planaria Price

        Thanks…….I’m talking about one major agent and publisher (not Linda)……sent in the first query package in March…………..wrote again in June just a quick email–“did they get it or was it sucked into the spam filter, please reply” and nothing. To me, it is just so rude and unprofessional. I have six published books with University of Michigan Press and now I am in uncharted waters……


  5. Lesley C

    Oooo … definitely guilty of premature querying and internet stalking! I think they’re in every writer’s genetic code!

  6. Yup yup. So hard to balance letting rejection be a guide to better writing and not letting rejection crush the writing spirit. Querying time is brutal. No way around it. Great tips!

  7. Congratulations on signing with Ms. Epstein! I love your third tip. Why is it that, even when you’ve had some requests for fulls or partials, the rejections can still drag you down? (The agents who requested were just being nice, I tell myself. And the ones who rejected are obviously the most discriminating.) Reading posts like this one is a great pick-me-up. 🙂

    Best of luck with your YA novel. May the advance be generous and the royalties ever-flowing!

    • Miriam

      Thanks so much Sharon! I know, no matter how mentally prepared for rejection we think we are, it’s still such a shock to the ego–especially when sending out multiple queries, and multiple rejections roll in, one after the other. It’s good to know we are not alone.

      Also–love your sign off! 🙂 May yours be so as well!