Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Query - What to Send and to Whom

Last time I discussed querying publishers as well as agents to increase your chances. Today - what to send and to whom!

Also, I am visiting Just Jemi today, discussing how to write a book series.

Before you do anything, what is your manuscript’s specific genre? Check the BISG (Book Industry Study Group) site for a full listing of all genres.

Now this may seem obvious, but many writers miss the mark - only send your work to agents or publishers who publish your genre. You’re only wasting your time, money, and effort if you do otherwise. Do your research. What books does that press publish? What genres does that agent represent? Become familiar with the titles and authors. This will also help when you write your query, as you’ll be able to mention specific titles.

You also need to discover what they are currently accepting. Check the website, as it will be more up to date than publisher listings or agent books. A press that publishes romance might only be accepting historical romances at that moment. Again, don’t waste time and money sending the wrong genre.

At this point, you know your genre, you have a list of publishers and agents currently accepting your genre, (and you’ve checked Preditors & Editors) - now what do you send? Two magical words:


Every publisher and agent has submission guidelines. Those guidelines are in place for a reason. Some writers look upon them as mere suggestions, but if you want your query to attain anything beyond a form rejection letter, you need to treat them as rules.

The submission guidelines are like a checklist for editors. They have stated specifically what information they want to see in the query letter. They may request additional items, such as a synopsis, outline, marketing plan, or sample chapters. With every letter or email they receive, they run through their checklist. The omission of even one item can be grounds for immediate rejection.

Think of it as making a good first impression. Publishers and agents aren’t reading your query letter just to see if your manuscript interests them - they are noting how well you follow directions. You can write the best book in the world, but if your query is lacking (or improperly formatted, etc,) then it is doubtful any editor will want to see it. Why? Because you just proved you are incapable of following directions. Publishers and agents do not want to take on ‘troublesome’ authors.

When submitting your work, be sure to send exactly what they are requesting!


Jemi Fraser said...

Really good points Diane. I didn't know about the BISG (which strangely made me think of Dahl's BFG :)). I'll definitely check that out.

I imagine a lot of rejections are based soley on people querying the wrong agents! Thanks for the tips :)

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Diane - always helpful! I've had a query out for a mystery for exactly six months today. That is when they promised to let me hear back by. Should I drop them a note asking what is happening or hold tight for awhile longer. I gave them the only view as they are the premiere mystery publisher in Canada. eek.

Meet Cindy said...

Thank you for removing the clutter... What you provide to the readers/followers is clear, concise details (and links) to sooth the nervous monkey-mind so it can be productive. There are too many other websites/blogs, and fellow writers, spreading bad advice and "trust me's" claiming to know it all.

Thank you for providing the link for the Book Industry Study Group. It's been bookmarked and will be utilized.

Take care ~

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Jemi, BISG does a lot more than categorize genres, too!

Jan, send them a polite inquiry and then prepare to send out more.

Cindy, thank you! I'm a detail person by nature, but sometimes too many details are confusing. I decided to go for basic and blunt!

Helen Ginger said...

Very good advice, Diane. Clear and concise -- with great links. Gonna link over and check out BISG.

Straight From Hel


Although I don't write novels, I am taking in all your tips, who knows one day........?

Loved the read.

Enjoy your day.

Tamara Narayan said...

Nice blog. I'm gearing up to send out another round of queries, so this came at the perfect time for me.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Information the way I like it -- To The Point. Thanks.
Never heard of BISG so we'll check it later.

Giggles and Guns

Karen Walker said...

You are so good, Diane. BISG is one I'd never heard of. Thanks.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

If your genre isn't listed on BISG, time to select a new genre!

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent points. I used to format my queries so that my first sentence was "Hey, this is what you want." (Basically, I did my research) and then "Guess what? I'VE got what YOU want."

Great post!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some good, common sense tips.

Talli Roland said...

Thanks for the pointers, Diane. And great interview with Jemi, by the way!

The Old Silly said...

"When submitting your work, be sure to send exactly what they are requesting!"


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

This is sure a subject that needs covering. When I interviewed agents for their pet peeves for my book, The Frugal Editor (, that authors didn't do this kind of homework was on almost every single one of their lists!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Blogging writers' resources at Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites pick

Arlee Bird said...

Some more good advice. Thanks.

Tossing It Out

Simon Hay said...

I'm going to check out BISG. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Those are great tips. All these makes me want to write a novel.

Anonymous said...

Great advice. Thanks for sharing.