It has been a while since I’ve blogged about how to write a query letter to a literary agent. But I have a lot of new readers, and they may not have gone through my archives. So, for them, and for the world, I want to drive home a point about query etiquette that I first introduced in this post about appropriate rejection response:
Don’t serial query.
Your Work May Not Be Ready Yet
When I pass on your work, I’m saying: this isn’t ready yet. You probably wrote that project during the current phase of your development as a writer. I’m saying you need to get to the next phase of your development, and possibly the phase after that, or the phase after that phase, before you’re ready.
So don’t send me something else, immediately, from the same phase of your development. Or, even worse, admit that you’re sending me something that’s even older than what you’re querying around now, that’s from an even earlier phase of your growth as a writer. That’s objectively bad query etiquette.
Give Your Skills Time to Evolve
I want people who grow and develop their craft every time they sit down to write. I don’t want your old stuff. I want your new ideas, your new skills, your evolving talent…once you’ve given it time to evolve. My favorite Ben Folds quote is pertinent here, and I say it every time I speak to an audience: “Time takes time, you know?”
For some reason, I’ve been noticing a lot of serial queries lately. A query. A pass. Another query, almost instantly, for an old project you just happen to have lying around. That could possibly work if you had a blockbuster drawer manuscript, but if you do, why didn’t you start out by querying that one?
Send me your strongest work, the best example of where you are as a writer today, then, if you get a pass, go back and write some more. Evolve. Then try again. LATER. Take the time to learn from each submission process. You can’t possibly do that until you’ve gone through the entire submission process, though.
How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent: Be Thoughtful, Deliberate, and Strategic
You really shouldn’t be one of those writers who’s like a log ride: manuscript after manuscript after manuscript coming down your query chute. I only want to work with thoughtful writers who deliberately learn from each craft experience and then strategically plan their next move. No mad grasping. No flinging stuff against the wall just for the hell of it. That’s just my opinion about query etiquette, though. Maybe other agents appreciate getting hit with query after query for all the stuff you have up your sleeves. Go serial query them, once they raise their hands and endorse this practice. 🙂
Wondering how to write a query letter to a literary agent? Hire me as your query editor and we can work on your submission materials or dig deeper into your picture book, novel, or non-fiction proposal together.