Forget the Query Stage

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Last week, at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, I was blown away by the number of fine writers with high concept books I found among first time attendees. It’s almost like they were secretly laboring in a yurt somewhere and made their debut with a ready-for-prime-time winner. I’m delighted to announce that I will be signing a nice handful of writers. Exciting! I often talk about skipping the query stage but in this case these writers skipped a number of steps.

Let me remind you again about how to take those shortcuts to getting an agent. I wrote this a while ago but it’s as true now as ever.

We get queries by the bucket load as you can imagine. Most writers don’t make it past the query stage simply because of the sheer volume of fine queries. But you can forget the query stage. Let me give you four tips that will allow you to go directly to submit your full proposal and completely forget the query stage.dreamstime_xs_51055868

  • Meet an agent or an editor at a writing conference. When you sit down with an agent or editor at a writer’s conference, that IS the query. If he or she says, “That sounds interesting. Sent it to me,” you are in. You can forget the query. You only need send the proposal and sample chapters or full manuscript. Whatever they request.
  • Meet the agent or editor at an event. Or at Starbucks. True story: I stopped at a Starbucks about a hundred miles from my home on a Friday afternoon on my way out of town. A tall, poised woman greeted me by name. She said, “My name is Yolando and I met you briefly at Mount Hermon.” Turns out she was also about a hundred miles from her home enroute to somewhere else. While waiting for our Frappuccinos, she told me about her project. Intrigued, I asked her to send it. Yes, there are those serendipitous connections.
  • Come via a referral from an existing client or author. This one is a little more tricky since you can’t just go up to one of our clients and say, “Will you refer me to your agent?” The offer has to come from the agented writer and they need to have read your work and be ready to be an enthusiastic supporter of you as a writer. I can’t tell you how many times we agents hear, “Michael Hyatt recommended you.” We know that means that the writer got our name off the list of agent names Michael Hyatt keeps on his website. A true recommendation from Michael Hyatt would be an entirely different animal. Be aware that when you say one of our clients referred you, the first thing we’ll do is pick up the phone and ask that client why he felt we were perfect for each other. More than once I’ve heard, “I didn’t refer her. she just asked me who my agent was.” Bad form.
  • Enter a contest. Contests are often judged by editors or agents. That’s how I came to represent Lori Benton. She was in a stack of contest finalists. If an agent sees stunning work, he’ll jump on it. One of the best ways to forget the query.

These shortcuts don’t work

  • Cold calling the agent or editor on the phone. Seriously. You’d laugh if you heard the breathlessly intense phone calls we get. A writer is judged by his writing. There is no way to transmit that over the phone lines.
  • Sending the unrequested proposal or full manuscript to the agent’s or editor’s email. All that says is that the sender feels somehow entitled to ignore the process. Even if the writing were stellar it’s not worth our time to represent an “entitled” writer. They never do well in publishing.
  • Mentioning a client’s name or the name of a well-known author, implying it is a referral. We check. We ask for more information. It won’t work.
  • Having your secretary or publicist call of send the proposal on your behalf. These earn an eye roll. Cold calling is bad enough but having a minion cold call? What kind of impression do you think that makes.

Have you found a way into the process that works? Have you ever been able to forget the query and get right to the manuscript? How important do you think getting to know the agent is?


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Wendy Lawton

Blogger: the ever busy Wendy Lawton

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