Steps to Querying

In the publishing world, a “query” is an author submission. A query can be submitted to a literary agent to request representation, or it can be submitted to a publisher to request publication. For the purposes of this website, we’ll only be discussing queries to agents.

There is a wealth of information on the Internet for authors wishing to look for an agent; so much that it can be daunting to even begin. This list is a quick walkthrough of the querying process.

STEPS TO QUERYING

  1. Have work to submit. For author/illustrators, you need a completed manuscript or comic pitch. For illustrators, a portfolio link will do.
  2. Research some agents and make a query list. There are some links to get you started in the FAQ!
  3. Check each agent/agency website for submission guidelines. They’re different for every agent. Make sure you know what they want to see!
  4. Assemble your query. This comprises a query letter and the work you’re submitting. Do NOT send attachments unless the submission guidelines request them! Some info on query letters:
    How to Write a Picture Book Query
    A Query Letter Format: Part 1
    How to Query a Picture Book

    1. For picture books, you need a manuscript, and you can also send a PB dummy. Here’s more info on dummies:
      Picture Book Dummies for (Not) Dummies
      Wendy Martin Makes a Dummy
      Tip: compress the PDF to 2-5 MB. This can be done through Adobe Acrobat without losing too much quality.
    2. For graphic novels, you will typically need a full outline or synopsis, a partial or full script, and some sample art. Here’s more info on graphic novel pitches:
      Anatomy of a Graphic Novel Pitch
      Tip: compile all parts of the pitch into a single PDF document, laid out in the order that you would like all parts viewed. You can also break the pitch into two documents: one for text, the other for art.
    3. If you are submitting as an illustrator only, you will need a link to an online portfolio. Here is some info on putting together a portfolio website: Portfolio Websites for Illustrators.
      Tip: Some agents may also request that you attach a few JPEG art samples. Follow the submission guidelines!
  5. Submit your query! Don’t submit to too many agents at a time. 5-6 agents is good.
    Why submit in small batches? Say your query list is 20 agents, and you submit to all 20 at once. All 20 reject your submission. Rejections are final; you can’t submit this manuscript to those agents again, and now you’ve gone through your entire query list. But say you only submitted to five agents on your list, and all five rejected. You now have a chance to give your manuscript a second look and make revisions before you submit to the next five, or change your submission strategy.
  6. WAIT! It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months to hear back from an agent. Have patience, and get to work on the next project!
  7. You may receive a rejection, or several. If it is a form rejection–that is, a standard, impersonal rejection–do not reply to the agent. Unfortunately these things do happen, and it’s best to simply make a note of the rejection and move on. If the agent sends a personal rejection, in which they offer feedback or ask to see other work, then that’s good! If you reply, do so politely.
  8. If an agent asks to call you to discuss your work further… this is a REALLY good sign! It may not necessarily lead to an offer of representation. Be polite and professional.
  9. If an agent makes an offer! Congratulations! Do NOT say “yes” right away!!! Ask for time to make a decision. A week or two weeks is customary, but try not to keep them waiting longer than that.
    1. This is the time to let any other agents you’ve submitted to know that you have an offer of representation. They may want to quickly consider your work and make a decision.
      Here is some info on corresponding with agents after an offer of representation:
      So You Got an Offer of Rep
      Handling An Offer of Representation
      All About Offer Etiquette
    2. This is also the time to talk to any agents that offer representation, ask questions, and possibly talk to their clients. This is a big decision, so take your time to consider all options, pros and cons, and how well you communicate with each agent.
      Here is some info from agents on things to think about when an agent makes an offer:
      How to Handle An Offer of Representation
      5 Questions I Ask Every Writer
      5 Qs Authors Don’t Ask but Should

Still have questions?