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I’ve had a number of people recently ask me for tips on preparing a query letter for a literary agent. Finding a literary agent isn’t easy, but there are a few tried-and-true resources that you can use to help make the process al ittle less painful.
- Query Shark – This blog is absolutely PERFECT for anyone looking for an agent for a fiction book. The author, a literary agent herself, provides entertaining, tough-love (and sometimes deliciously humorous) commentary on real queries that aspiring authors send her. Often, the posts will include revisions of the query until the submitter gets the query just right (or, never does!) On one of her recent posts, she commented about a query: “You’re trying to connect the dots in a splatter pattern here and it’s not pretty.” Query Shark has a great way with words and you’ll certainly learn a lot if you invest time in this blog. Although geared toward fiction queries, nonfiction writers can also find helpful advice within the pages of the blog.
- Query Tracker – This service has both a free version and an affordably priced $25/year version. Here, you’ll find an extensive database of literary agents for all genres, including fiction and nonfiction. The database includes how to contact the agent, tips for queries, and the agent’s percentage of positive responses vs. negative. Users leave comments about their experiences with the agents, including how long it took to get a response and whether the response was a form letter. Query Tracker lets you keep track of all the agents you’ve queried and their responses. It’s a great way to get very useful information and stay organized.
- Absolute Write Forums – I’m a big fan of the Absolute Write Forums for any writer. It’s a great community of fellow writers who offer advice and general camaraderie. For finding an agent, you’ll want to visit a couple places in this forum. First, there is a Bewares, Recommendations and Background Check section that vets agents and publishers. Search here for the agent you’re thinking of querying to see other writers’ experiences and advice. But while your’e there, don’t miss the entire section on Publishing, including an “Ask the Agent” board, “Ask the Editor,” and Publishing FAQs.
- Finally, check out Preditors & Editors. Here, agents & editors are vetted to make sure they’re not just out to scam you. Pro tip: If an agent asks you for money, he’s not the right agent for you.