Reflections on a Successful Query
(aka I Have an Agent!)

About nine years ago, while I was still working on my masters degree in writing at USC, I took a class called The Business of Writing. On one of the final days of the class an agent came to listen to our elevator pitches and gave us each a bit of feedback. He said that we were all welcome to come meet with him in his office and that he’d be happy to give more feedback, but that in all the years he had been a guest speaker for that particular class, no one had ever taken him up on the offer. That sounded like a challenge to me.

A week later I was sitting in his office in Beverly Hills. I wrote a blog post about it, but I kind of figured he maybe didn’t want me throwing his name around, so I called him the FHA (Fancy Hollywood Agent). He gave me some advice on my story and said I could send him a few pages when it was ready. So I did.

Well, I am super excited to announce that the FHA is now officially my agent. I mean, how cool is that? He’s been at the top of my list for nine years and he loved my story.

His name is Joel Gotler of Intellectual Property Group. My agent. I’m so excited.

My Querying Story

I got a pretty decent response from my query letter, with four of my initial ten queries resulting in requests for the full manuscript. Of those, one passed, one had a death in the family and ended up unable to read it, and two asked to represent me. I talked with them both last week and by Friday it was official.

I’m feeling super lucky because I know this kind of timeline is not the norm, but I’m also allowing myself a bit of pride, because I worked damn hard to get here. And since I try to keep this blog focused on craft, I’d like to share a few of the thing I think I did right, just in case they might be helpful to my fellow writers out there.

Here are the steps I took. None of this will be revolutionary if you’ve done ANY reading on the topic of submitting your manuscript. I didn’t use any gimmicks or tricks. I just tried to present my story in the best possible light by being super professional.

Reflections on a Successful Query

  1. Finish the manuscript right. This should be a no-brainer. Don’t just call it done because you’re tired of working on it. Keep editing until you’re confident that it’s the best it can be. Have it fully formatted and ready to go in Word, and as a PDF.
  2. Write a professional query letter. There are about a gazillion websites on this topic, so read up. I like Jane Friedman’s blog – good, useful tips on how to present yourself like a pro.
  3. Query agents for a reason. I started each query letter with a sentence or two telling the agent why I thought my book might be of interest to them (and I wasn’t bullshitting). It took me two days to send out ten letters, so consider that personalizing these things takes time.
  4. Sweat the blurb. I agonized over my blurb, like, a lot. It was the second paragraph in my query letters, right after the two lines about why I was writing that particular agent, so I knew it had to be good. I asked writer friends to read drafts. I rewrote it a bunch of times.
  5. Send them what they ask for. Again, this should be a no-brainer. They wouldn’t go through the trouble of outlining what they want in a query if they didn’t care. Do your homework. Check their website. Ignoring their requests is just rude.
  6. Have a one-page synopsis ready. I know some agents ask for a longer synopsis, but I figured it would be easier to add things back in after cutting the story down to one page, so I started there. I had one request for the 1-pager, no requests for anything longer. (btw – I obsessed over the synopsis even more than the blurb – that baby took a WHILE to get right).

And that’s it, in a nutshell. I made a list of 30 agents, prioritizing from Mr. Gotler on down to agents I didn’t have a connection to, but who I would still be thrilled to have represent me.

The plan had been that, every time I got a rejection, I would just send a query to the next agent on the list. All in, I got 4 letters of “sorry, it’s not for us” and another three agents who simply never responded. But lucky me, by the time I got rejections, I was already in discussion with my soon-to-be-agent.

So there it is. New Years Resolution accomplished. I guess my revised goal for 2018 is to write a draft of my second novel.

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11 Responses to Reflections on a Successful Query
(aka I Have an Agent!)

  1. Carol Newman Cronin February 17, 2018 at 6:33 am #

    Congratulations! I must admit to a bit of jealousy (I’ve been querying since September, with a few requests for the full MS but no rep yet) but this post also helped me recognize that my blurb was not the best it could possibly be. Good luck with the publishing journey, and I hope we continue to receive your weekly emails.

    • April February 21, 2018 at 10:34 am #

      Thank you Carol. Good luck to you too. Keep me posted on how it goes!

  2. Rachel capps February 9, 2018 at 6:47 pm #

    Congrats! I echoe Bryan’s sentiments. I have tears of joy for you. How completely and exciting to hear this news.

    I too have followed you some time and followed your journey so to hear that all your hard work is paying off and with the agent you want is encouraging for writers still in the trenches. Well done!

    If anyone deserves this, its you. I look forward to your book’s release 🙂

    • April February 21, 2018 at 10:40 am #

      Thank you! I’m so excited, and at the same time I’m realizing how long the road to a published book can be. I’m sure there will be more rewrites, and then a half dozen other things I’m not even aware of, but it is fun to be on the path (and to have friends along with me – cheers!).

  3. Tracy Line February 9, 2018 at 4:08 pm #

    Congrats! And love this post and blog.

    • April February 21, 2018 at 10:41 am #

      Thanks Tracy!

  4. Bryan Fagan February 7, 2018 at 1:15 pm #

    Your news is giving me flashbacks to the day my best friend received a letter telling him he had just been accepted to the college of his dreams. That same rush of excitement I had for him is the exact same feeling I am having for you.

    I think it was about a year ago that I discovered your blog. Every week I learn something new. Your advice and your thoughts have taught me well. Your news does not surprise me. You hung in there, you worked hard, you listened and learned. It’s a simple recipe that many ignore but you were not one of the many and that is why people like you succeed.

    Congratulations my good friend. I know I speak for many of the readers who visit your site when I say I am proud of you!!!

    • April February 8, 2018 at 7:51 pm #

      Thank you Bryan,
      It means a lot, especially from someone who has been with me on the journey.


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