Kristen Otte

Finding Love and Laughter through Story

The Query Letter Experiment – Week One




I love self-publishing and the freedom to publish your books to your audience. But, I also see the value in traditional publishing. So, after I wrote my novel, The Photograph, I decided to try the traditional route of publishing first.

For those unfamiliar with the publishing world, the traditional publishing process is long and arduous. For fiction, the first step is to write a query letter. I think of a query letter as a cover letter introducing your book to a potential agent who represents your genre. If the agent likes what he or she reads, they will contact you to read the entire manuscript. If the agent likes the manuscript, then he or she will sign you as one of their clients. This process can take three weeks or three months. At that point, writers do a little dance, take a deep breath, and settle in for another round of waiting.

An author’s literary agent (with help from the author) will shop the novel to publishing companies. Agents usually have relationships with publishers which helps this process. And hopefully, a publisher will decide to publish the novel. More contracts are signed and editors enter the picture. Roughly a year or so after you sign with a publisher, your novel is published.

I am excited to announce I started this process a few weeks ago. I partnered with Candace of Change It Up Editing on my query letter. The final version of my query letter is fantastic. I can’t thank Candace enough.

Last week, I sent out my first query letter. I plan to send a few more this week to potential agents. And now, I wait.

I am cautiously optimistic about the process- hopeful to receive responses, even if they are a no. I want to learn from this process so the worst outcome is no communication or response from agents. We will see what happens and as always, you are invited to follow along with me.

Have you ever submitted query letters? Was it successful? What did you learn?


4 thoughts on “The Query Letter Experiment – Week One

  1. I think I sent out 70, all but 8 e-mail. One of the snail mail agents (in L.A.) asked for a partial. About three weeks later her assistant e-mailed me asking for a full read. They ended up passing, but sent me a 3-page single-spaced printed critique of the novel, surprisingly detailed. It was the internal coverage report, the “reader’s report.” It was obvious they had given the manuscript very serious consideration internally before rejecting it.

    I think out of the 62 e-mails, I got two requests for partials. Of course, many of the agents have a requirement that you send the first ten pages or the first chapter with the query. So a lot of them got a mini-partial.

    One e-mail resulted in a sudden callback via phone from an agent in Arizona. She asked for a full read. About 36 hours later she called back and gave me a critique (yes, of the whole ms.) over the phone, saying this part was good, this part was not so good, this other part was okay, etc. After ten minutes of this she rejected the book and didn’t want me to get back with revisions! Her tone was condescending the whole time. I found the whole experience mystifying, perhaps even a little disturbing. Why waste so much time on the phone to say no?

    I’d say about half the rejections were form letters or automated e-mails; a handful looked as if they were custom-written. About 30% of agents never responded.

    My advice is to query no fewer than 50 agents. Follow the guidelines on their websites. They all want slightly different things. Some want an e-mail query with the first 10 pp. of ms., others want a short query plus a synopsis, others want snail mail only, some have online forms in which to do the entire query process.

    If you send out only 10 or 20 queries, don’t expect to hear anything. That’s not enough.

  2. 95 queries.
    3 requests for partials.
    0 requests for a full manuscript.

    If I ever resume my so-called WIP and manage to finish it, I’ll surely add to those totals. I’m so inured to rejection it literally has no emotional effect on me whatsoever.

    Hopefully you will have better fortune/timing/marketability than me. I look forward to seeing updates in your progress. And good call working with Candace. She knows editing.

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