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This blog was featured on 07/27/2019
How to get your manuscript ready to query agents
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
July 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
July 2019

You've done it. You've finished your manuscript and can't wait to shop it around and see who bites. But as exciting as the idea of having your book published may be, it's important to be fully prepared before querying agents. If you feel that it's time to start pitching your book, here's how to get your manuscript ready to query agents. 

Finish your manuscript

This may sound obvious but don't ever try to query your manuscript unless it is 100% complete. Only in cases where an author has built a large audience (and typically this applies to nonfiction) can they land a book deal on a pitch alone. 

Have multiple people read the finished manuscript 

If you haven't let anyone else read your book and give you vital feedback, you are not ready to query agents. Whether it's giving a copy of the manuscript to your sister, friend, colleague or a beta reader online, it's important to get all the feedback you can before querying to ensure you've worked out the majority of the kinks and cleared up any confusion. In some cases (for example, if this is your first book) it may even make sense to hire a developmental editor.

Acknowledge the weaknesses in your manuscript 

If you know there are problems with your manuscript, so will the agent you send it to and any editor with a shred of experience. Before trying to send out your work, make sure you're honest with yourself and address anything you find wrong with your story. Don't send a manuscript off knowing there is a plot hole here or missing character arcs there. Make sure your story is the best it can possibly be. Relying on a future editor to fix mistakes is going to cut you off at the knees during the query stage.

Make sure your first three chapters are stellar

When you're getting ready to query, make sure that you are completely in love with your first three chapters. When sending your pitch out to agents, you may get some interested in viewing your work. With this in mind, if you send over chapters 4, 18 and 38, you will raise immediate red flags. Agents want to know that your book has a strong beginning that will hook a reader. 

Write your query letter

Now that you've ensured your manuscript is ready to go, it's time to query and you can't submit your manuscript to an agent without including a query letter. Instead of thinking of this like you're trying to sell your book to the agent, think about it like you're trying to seduce the agent, getting them interested enough to request your manuscript. Here are a few quick tips for writing your query: 

  • Treat your query letter like a first date. When dating, you want to charm the person you're seeing just enough to ensure they want to see you again. With this in mind, you don't want to let them in on your entire life story, baggage, etc. In the same vain, make sure you show the agent you're worthy of their time by being sincere, respectful and, most importantly, interesting.
  • Do the research. Let the agent know that you are aware of the current books they represent and let them know why your book would fit into that repertoire. This is a quick way for them to know the style and genre of your book as well as who would buy your book if published. You can include the manuscript's word count here as well. 
  • Sum up your manuscript in 3-5 sentences. Don't give the agent more information than they need. A brief rundown of your book as a whole will do just the trick.
  • Convince them of your storytelling abilities. Remember that your query is a chance to prove your worth as a storyteller. By writing a query letter with the above elements, you're simply proving that you are great at telling stories. Once they know you can effectively grab a reader's attention, they'll be more interested in reviewing your manuscript. 

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