Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

From the Query to the Call_The Query Process Made Easy, Page 4

Elana Johnson

  Now that your document is prepared to send, you just need to prepare your response.

  Preparing Your Email Response:

  How you respond depends on several things. A) What you know about the agent B) How they spoke to you C) How they signed the request D) What they called you in their request and E) Anything else you want to interpret. *winks*

  I’m going to include some samples with possible responses so you can see what I mean.

  Request #1: The Less-Formal

  Hi Elana,

  You have a fabulous voice and I am intrigued by your first 10 pages.

  Please send me the full as a word doc.


  Super Agent X

  Things to note:

  She called me by my first name

  She signed her first name

  She wants the full as a word document

  She likes my voice

  I know you can read English, I’m just telling you this so you can see what I do with it.

  Possible message to include with this request:

  Dear Super Agent X (she used her first name, so I do too),

  Thank you for your kind words about the voice in the first 10 pages (acknowledges what she said). As per your request earlier this afternoon, I am including the full manuscript of TITLE (remind her, even though it’s in the subject of the email and the name of the document) as a word attachment. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

  Have a great weekend/evening/day!

  (It’s less formal, so this is fine.)

  Elana (Use first name only. Your email should have your full name, as should your submission—on every single page.)

  Request #2: The Professional

  Dear Ms. Johnson,

  I would like to read your complete manuscript. Please send it to me as either an RTF or Word.doc file.

  Thank you,

  [professional email signature, complete with agency information]

  Things to note:

  She called me by my last name

  She didn’t even sign it—she simply used her standard signature

  She wants the full as a word document (.doc NOT .docx) or an RTF

  Possible message to include with this request:

  Dear Ms. Professional Agent (she used a formal name, so I do too),

  Thank you for your request on May 15. As per your submission guidelines, I am attaching the complete manuscript of my YA urban fantasy, TITLE,(remind her, even though it’s in the subject of the email and the name of the document) as a Word (.doc) file (specify which, since she gave a choice). Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

  Elana Johnson (Use both first and last name for formality.)

  Notice how much I’ve copied from her. “complete manuscript” “Word (.doc) file” the “Ms. Last Name”. Mirror the level of formality as the agent dictates. I believe this will always serve you well, as every agent is different.

  Additional Online Resources:

  Tips on submitting by email from literary agent Colleen Lindsay

  Tips for formatting your manuscript from literary agent Nathan Bransford

  Sending queries is an anxious endeavor. If you are prepared, you’ll have a better experience. Let the rejections roll off your back and enjoy every request. Once you’ve sent both queries and requests, you enter the next phase of publishing: Waiting.

  How many of you choose the longest line at the grocery store? The one behind that woman whose hair is coming out of her ponytail and has three children, two of which are bawling and the third is in serious need of a Kleenex? Really? You don’t choose that line?

  Why not? Is it because you don’t want to wait? I’m just going to get this out there: waiting is hard. Waiting is not my idea of a good time. I don’t think to myself, “Yes! The light turned red! Now I get to wait.”

  I’ve always had a problem waiting. I remember in college how mad, yes, physically angry, I was when the bus was late. It all stems from my hatred of waiting.

  So what did I do years later keeping this whole I-hate-waiting-for-the-bus incident in mind? Why I threw myself headfirst into the publishing industry, where 90% of my time is spent, get this, waiting.

  My journey has looked something like this. Is this road familiar to any of you?

  Writing (the fun part)

  Waiting to hear back from beta readers.

  Waiting to get feedback on my query.

  Waiting to get advice on my synopsis.

  Researching Agents

  Sending queries

  Waiting to hear back on sent queries

  Waiting to hear back on sent queries

  Getting requests and/or rejections

  Waiting to hear back on sent queries

  Sending requests

  Waiting to hear back on sent queries

  Waiting to hear back on requests

  Waiting to hear back on requests

  Waiting to hear back on requests

  Waiting to hear back on sent queries

  Publishing is one massive waiting game. So how do you make the game one worth playing? Because let’s face it, if it’s not fun, why are we doing it? Maybe some of you like self-inflicted torture, but me? Not so much. So I made myself a “Waiting Toolkit.”

  Packed carefully in the Waiting Toolkit are the following diversions and/or tactics for enjoying the wait.

  Waiting Toolkit Ideas:



  Help someone


  Enjoy life

  Write. Something new, something old, something, um, not borrowed, and/or something blue. Just write. This can be hard after finishing something to the point where you’re sending it out for representation. Don’t let your inner editor take over. Remember why you became a writer in the first place—because it is fun. You enjoyed it. You can again.

  Read. There’s nothing like a good book to pass the hours/days/months you’ll have to wait. Take the time to actually enjoy it. And reading will make you a better writer. Or at least more familiar with what's out there already. Read novels you want to just for fun. Or read novels by authors your dream-agent represents. Either way, reading is a great waiting-buster for a writer.

  Help someone else in the journey. Beta-read. Participate in a critique group (something you should probably be doing anyway). Help with queries on one of the forums mentioned in the query samples section.

  Research. Use this “waiting” time to research more agents, more story ideas, more publishing ins and outs, a new way to improve your craft. You can count your blog reading in this category. You’d be amazed how fast the hours fly by when you’re learning something new or immersing yourself in becoming a better writer.

  Enjoy the twittering of the birds, the rain as it hits the eaves, the spring breeze wafting off the Rocky Mountains…. No seriously, take a step back from the computer. Enjoy your real life. Your family. Your job. Just being alive. Go for a run. A walk on the beach. Something to remind yourself that you’re a real person too—not just a writer.

  I think it’s pretty common knowledge that authors revise and/or edit for their agents. And then for editors. And pretty much forever. But what about when an agent asks for revisions BEFORE they offer?

  How do you handle that?

  My advice: Professionally. Actually, I think there are a few things that need to happen before you launch into difficult and often painful revisions without a contract.

  1. Ask the agent if the revision is an exclusive. If they say yes, you’ll have to decide if you want to do revisions exclusively for them. I personally don’t think exclusives are good for anyone—especially authors.

  Check out this link on exclusives by literary agent, Janet Reid.

  If you have multiple submissions out, it’s going to be difficult to grant the Revision Agent an exclusive. Once you finish the revisions, you’re going to want to alert the other agents that you have a
new version of the manuscript—and you can’t do that if you have an exclusive.

  Since you want to keep your options open for any agent to potentially offer, granting an exclusive isn’t a good idea. That said, some agents won’t work with you unless you do give them an exclusive, and if some of the ideas are theirs...well, you can see the tangled web it could become.

  So be honest and upfront with what you have out there. Even who it’s with if the agent asks. You have nothing to hide. You want the very best agent for you and your novel. It might be the Revision Agent. It might not.

  2. Ask yourself: Do I agree with the suggestions? If so, full speed ahead. If not, you don’t have to do them. Agents are people too. Just because they want something a specific way, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Especially without a signed contract. But definitely let the suggestions stew; don’t reject them outright. Agents are agents for a reason—they know books. Consider carefully.

  3. Communicate regularly. Keep the agent in the loop on what you’re doing and when you anticipate finishing. Ask them questions. They are genuinely interested in you and your work, and if they’ve asked for specific revisions, you have every right to run things by them.

  Oftentimes, we feel like we’re burdening them—especially if we’re not their client yet. Remember that you never get what you don’t ask for. Now, I’m not saying email them every time you write a new sentence. But keep in touch. Check in with them every couple of weeks until the revisions are done.

  Revisions are done. Now what?

  Alert the Revisions Agent. Send the revised full with a message thanking them for their time.

  Alert all other agents with material. *Note: You can only do this if you haven’t granted an exclusive to Revision Agent.

  Send out the revised manuscript when you get new requests and to any agents who say they’ll look at it.

  Word to the Wise:

  I wouldn’t offer more than one revision when dealing with agents. Otherwise, it might come off as the novel not being complete and you could get rejected.

  Here’s a sample of an email you could send when offering a revision:

  Dear Agent,

  I recently submitted my full manuscript of XXX, a young adult dystopian novel, for your consideration. I’ve received feedback from two agents and have decided to incorporate their suggestions (higher stakes and faster pacing) before resubmitting the manuscript to them. I was wondering if perhaps you would like the recently revised edition of XXX to consider. I’d be happy to forward it to you.

  Thank you for your time,


  I’ve also used this one:

  Dear Agent,

  I recently submitted my full manuscript of XYZ, a young adult dystopian novel, for your consideration. A day or two after I sent the MS, I had a scheduled phone call with an agent. We talked, and she wanted some specific revisions. I have recently completely those revisions. I was wondering if perhaps you would like the revised edition of XYZ to consider. I’d be happy to forward it to you.

  Thank you for your time,


  When the agent comes calling…it’s best to be prepared.

  I have talked to several agents on the phone. The very first time, I knew it wasn’t going to be an offer of representation. Yet I still prepared like it would be. I found the links and printed the list of questions “just in case.”

  I had just over 24 hours to prepare. Here’s an interesting approach that you might want to try.

  I forwarded the email to one of my dearest, dearest friends. Make sure this is someone you love unconditionally—and they love you back that way. Also, this person should be a writer themselves. Because, really, writers are the only ones who get what it means when an agent call is scheduled.

  She said she’d call me that night, pretending to be a literary agent. And she did. And I giggled and was nervous even though I knew it was only my friend. I’m just like that.

  But you know what? It really helped me. When the real call came the next day, I already had my hyena-laughing out of the way. I was focused, eloquent, and flat-out prepared (if I do say so myself).

  Tips for Fielding The Call:

  Print out the online resources

  Practice with a friend

  Be yourself

  Remember that the agent is just a person too

  After that first call, I received two more from the same agent. I've queried for a second time, getting two offers from two agents, after two more phone calls. I've been working with an agent for over five years, and I talk to them on the phone all the time.

  Here's what I know: Agents are normal. They are friends, sisters, spouses, mothers, fathers, bloggers, readers, writers, and just people. Don’t ever forget it. And if you want me to practice with you on the phone, I can. I’m a stranger—and that’s what an agent is the first time you talk to them. So don’t sweat it.

  Online resources:

  Advice from Agent Query

  Advice from Marsha Moyer

  The Passionate Pen

  Tips from literary agent Rachelle Gardener

  Tips from literary agent Jessica Faust

  The Association of Artist’s Representatives

  SFWA Warnings About Agents

  Additional questions to consider:

  How long have you been in business as an agent?

  Are you a member of the AAR? If not, do you adhere to the guidelines set forth by the AAR?

  How many clients do you represent? [Hint: If they represent 50, they’re not going to have a lot of time for you.]

  Who in your agency will actually be handling my work? Will you represent me personally, or will my book be assigned to an associate?

  What made you decide that you wanted to represent my work?

  Do you feel that the project is ready for submission to publishers, or will I need to make revisions before submission?

  If the manuscript needs revisions, how extensive will they be? Will they be small changes, or will I need to make major plot or character changes?

  How involved are you in working with your clients in developing ideas?

  Which editors or publishing houses do you believe would be a good fit for my book?

  What houses that publish my type of manuscript have you placed projects with?

  How often will you be in touch when I’m on submission? Do you prefer email contact or by phone? Generally what is your response time?

  What can I do to increase my book’s chances of selling?

  Do you represent your clients on a book-by-book basis, or are you interested in representing future projects as well?

  What if I decide to write something in [different genre you’re considering]? Would you represent that book as well? If not, how would you feel about referring me to another agent?

  If you can’t sell this manuscript, what happens? Do we revise? Will you look at other work by me? Or am I dropped as a client?

  What are your commission rates? [Standard is 15% domestic.]

  Do you issue a written agent-author agreement or contract? What is the duration of the contract?

  Will you consult with me on any and all offers?

  When you receive money for me, how quickly do you pay out my share? Will you issue a 1099 tax form at the end of the year? How do I get my money if something happens to you?

  In the event of death or illness, what provisions do you make for continued representation?

  What are your policies if we should part company for any other reasons?

  What are your questions or expectations for me if I decide to take you on as my agent?

  What are your favorite books?

  You mentioned revisions, how long does that process usually take? Do you do line edits or just overall comments? How extensive are the revisions?