4 Tips for Cold Querying (also know as the slush pile!)
I connected with my agent through cold querying, and for many agents, this is their main way of finding clients! Here's some tips:
1-A. Gather your list
This is IMPORTANT: Find the agents that look for your type of manuscript. Maybe an agent likes fantasy, but they hate cute animals (noo!). Or they like MG, but they only represent very serious contemporary. Use the agent's bio on their website, Google searches for interviews, www.ManuscriptWishlist.com, Publisher's Marketplace (subscription required), and ask friends that write similar types of manuscripts to get recommendations.
Create a spreadsheet to track your agents, their agency, typical response time, submission date, tentative response date (based on their typical response time), the overall status of your query, etc. This will help you remember where you are at! (I've also heard of people using QueryTracker, but I had a customized list and didn't want to pay, so I went with a Google Spreadsheet).
By carefully sorting out my list, I focused on the agents that are interested in my type of manuscript. And, looking at my tracking spreadsheet, the agents that requested or offered were at the top of my list.
1-B. Sort your list: Tiers of Agents (No, not tears. Even though querying feels very emotional sometimes!)
Who are the agents that you HAVE to query? If you get an offer in your first round, who would you be bummed about that you didn't query (ex: the ones that got away)? Those were my top tier agents. Who are the agents that might be a good fit but you weren't quite sure? Those were my tier three or four agents.
I sorted my list into four tiers based on the strength of my fit with them between manuscript wishlist and personal taste. Not every agent may be the right fit for all writers, so I tried to figure out who might be the best fit for me.
2. Before you start cold querying, find response times (and if they're open to queries!)
To find out their response times, I looked up agents on QueryTracker and their websites. To see if they're open to queries, I checked their Twitter and website immediately before querying.
With this information, I sorted agents within my tiers by response time, and prioritized the faster responders first.
3. Query in small batches (5 to 10)*
I went in batches of about 7 agents (I like the number 7, can you tell?) with the occasional impromptu agent in-between rounds. Once I got my first full request, I sent another batch. Two weeks after that, I sent out another batch.
I queried in small batches so that I could possibly edit my query or manuscript in-between rounds. That way, I wasn't putting all of my eggs in one basket.
Overall, I had a small query list. Because of that, I went for smaller, very specific rounds, but if you find a lot of agents who may be a good fit for your manuscript, querying in larger rounds might work for you!
*For pitch contests, you'll want to send out queries to interested agents as soon as possible. Since PitMad/DVPit require pitchers to have complete manuscripts, agents usually expect to hear from you fairly quickly. I've heard one week is the recommend maximum to let agents wait.
4. Some writers have different querying strategies, including:
A few additional tips:
Choose the best approach for you. Good luck!
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About Julie Abe
Julie writes magical MG and YA adventures. Julie's debut, EVA EVERGREEN, SEMI-MAGICAL WITCH, is a middle grade fantasy releasing in 2020 (Little, Brown Young Readers), and the magic will continue in 2021! She is represented by Sarah Landis at Sterling Lord Literistic.
Add Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch to your Goodreads TBR:
How I Got My Agent!
My Top Questions for The Call
Tips for (Before) The Call
How-to: Create an Author's Website
4on7: Author Mentor Match