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Help! It's Time to Query My Novel

First thing’s first: I basically know nothing about querying full-length novels. I've written three novels and shelved the first two (they were practice).

Basically me, querying. Art by Fred Charles

And yet, here I am, diving head-first into the mysterious world of novel submission. The process feels veiled and shimmery, like I'm trying to pull back some secret curtain.

Well, maybe it's not so mysterious. And maybe I know a tiny bit more about querying than I think I do. In fact, on any given day, there's a good chance I'm reading Loud Coffee Press submissions to help determine if they’re a “right fit.” Further, Loud Coffee Press routinely rejects hundreds of excellent pieces simply because they’re not a “best fit.” But, it doesn’t mean they’re not great. Perhaps this is a good perspective to keep in mind during my own querying process. I may not be everyone's cup of tea, but someone may find me a best fit.

So, back to my initial dilemma: I’ve never queried a novel before. Therefore, to the internet I go to figure out how everyone else does it. Here’s what I’ve figured out thus far. Forgive me in advance if I've managed to get this all wrong.

1. Plan for this process to take an extraordinary amount of time. I've been at this for about a month and have just about managed to compile my list of potential agents.

2. Polish your novel to a shine. This isn’t a time for half-drafts or almost-dones. My research revealed that agents aren’t looking for drafts. They want your nearest version of a complete book.

3. Next, compose that query letter! I binge-listened to the podcast “The Shit No One Tells You About Writing,” by the super talented agents at P.S. Literary Agency. After hours of hearing critique on letters submitted by other writers, I feel pretty good about the state of my own letter. The most surprising change in my query before versus after the podcast? It was that I thought I had a decent first draft. Turns out I was way off.

4. Begin your agent search. Steps one through three seemed easy compared to this (and yes, I’m talking about how step two suggests you write a book). One suggestion I read was to register for an account on Publisher’s Marketplace and create a target list of around 25 to 50 possible agents based on comps (or similarly sold books).

I’ve also utilized the following resources so far, all of which seem very helpful:

5. Ink up your printer and stock up on enough paper, envelopes, and stamps to handle the job ahead. (The Dollar Store came in very handy for this step.)

6. Submit and track. I created my own spreadsheet to keep track of agent details, submission preferences (email or postal mail), date submitted, timelines, response, etc.

7. Don’t stop writing. A willing agent may ask to see your social media, how you interact on social media, and other work(s) in progress, so be prepared to show yourself as a fully-formed writer!

And that's... that. Here I type, with my meager steps humbly placed before you to ask: what am I missing? What other resources have you used? What tips and tricks do you have for me, and anyone else navigating this process for the first time? Share below!

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