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But, as I have recently become a querying machine, I have a few more practical tips. Things you might not think of when you're starting out writing your letters. Things that will make your life easier.
THINGS I LEARNED THE HARD WAY
1. Create a Draft Query: No matter what e-mail program you use (I use G-mail) there should be a place to save a draft. Put your query letter in that spot without anyone in the To: field. Why? Because e-mail programs sometimes do some quirky formatting stuff, and if you get it all right the first time, you can copy and paste it into a new message whenever you're ready.
2. File Names: Save your completed manuscript with a properly formatted cover page (in Word 97/2000 format, please--a.k.a. .doc NEVER EVER EVER .docx). In the header, put your e-mail address on the left side. On the right side of the header put TITLE / PAGE NUMBER. I personally put my last name on the right side as well, but to each his own. Just make sure you've got contact information available all the time. Name the file LastName_ManuscriptTitle_Full Manuscript
3. Other Essential Files: From the completed manuscript, create a new document for each of the following:
- The first 3 chapters
- The first chapter
- The first 50 pages
- The first 5 pages
- The first 10 pages
4. The E-mail Ready Format: When you've got your first chapter (or 10 pages, 3 chapters, whatever you've got the ambition for) saved. Save it as a new document. Select all, right click and use Paragraph to single space it. Then, go through the WHOLE thing and put an extra return after every paragraph. You absolutely must do this manually, even through Paragraph lets you do it the easy way. Why? Because then you can just copy and paste it into the body of an e-mail without making your recipient go blind at the massive block of text.
5. Memorize This: If you've saved a longer portion in the E-mail Ready format, memorize where your 1, 3, 5, and 10 page breaks are.
6. Get the Greeting Right: When you create a new message for your query, CHANGE THE NAME IN THE SALUTATION TO THE PERSON YOU ARE SENDING IT TO BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE.
7. Join QueryTracker: The free version will do you just fine unless you start juggling a lot of projects. Create a list of agents and keep it updated. Do your fellow QTers a favor and put in a new comment when you get results from a query.
8. Check For Yourself: When you use QueryTracker, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS go to the agency's actual website and double check the submission guidelines. Follow those. Even if they're not up-to-date, you can't be faulted for following an agent's own guidelines.
9. Be A Google Genius: While on QueryTracker, each agent page has a list of links to the left. Click on the Google link. But don't stop there. Change your search to include "agent interview" and probably get rid of the agency name in the search. Why? Agents don't always stay at the same agency, or agency's merge, change names, etc. Their personalities and tastes don't really change though. There's gold in them thar interviews.
10. Save It All for Later: Create a folder in your e-mail program for Query-related messages. Whenever you get one--even form rejections--save them to this folder. Why? Because if you are querying the same agent in the future, you can look back and see what kind of personalization you wrote the first time. You can see if you got a form rejection or personalized rejection. If you got something personalized, you might be able to mention it in the future. You never know what might be useful.
Will these tips help you get an agent? Not if your story's not ready. Not if you're chasing a dead trend (and believe me, I know all about that one). Not if you query the wrong agents for your book. But, they will help you be professional, efficient and avoid being a #pubtip on Twitter.
Does anyone else have a great querying tip? Share it in the comments.