Querying literary agents and publishers requires thick skin and believing your novel is good enough. But, for a long time, I believed self publishing was even more scary.
I’m not querying anymore, I am bravely going indie, and super excited about it. But over the years I tried various methods of querying and I want to share these with you because you might find it useful…
Query Letter (or email/form)
This is the most well known method. Traditionally, you’d identify identify a Literary Agent or Publisher you feel will be interested in your novel and send them a letter with your manuscript. Today, many allow you to submit online using a form or by email. It’s important to follow their submission guidelines which are often available on their website.
Many publishers don’t accept “unsolicited” manuscripts. This means you need a Literary Agent. Literary Agents used to insist on exclusive queries meaning you send to one agency at a time. Thankfully this is not the norm anymore as it made the process more time consuming.
You can find details about publishers and agencies by searching online or buy The Artists & Writers Yearbook. It’s a directory of contacts and full of useful article’s- it’s updated annually.
It can be hard work to find who to query, manage the various submission requirements and keep track. As a result various companies have set up services to support you in this.
When WeBook was about, I loved their query service. They identified who was interested in my manuscript type, adapted my attachments for each agent, and kept track of my emails. It worked and I did get a few requests.
Sadly, WeBook is no more but other companies offer a similar service, like Tracker Query. There was Agent Query Connect but the page won’t load – maybe they’ve gone.
Here’s a video review of Agent Hunter from 2 years ago. I think they rebranded as Agent Match by Jerchio Writers.
Another thing my beloved WeBook did was a competition where readers voted on the first page of a book. Then the first chapter. Then the first three chapters. If you made it to the finals it would be read by agents & publishers. Readers got virtual badges if they were good at spotting a winner!
Wattpad has the Wattys. This is an annual competition for users of their platform. The story must have been posted on the site during a set period of time. If you win, you get offered a publishing contract.
TechUntold have a good list of writing platforms in this article: 7 of the best sites like Wattpad
This is similar to the social media platforms above except it is owned by a publisher. You must post the whole complete final novel, exclusive to them for 6 months.
Readers vote on their favourites and can offer feedback. The publisher chooses their favourites from the site to offer publishing. I recently blogger about my experience which you can read here.
It sounds like Sweek offer a similar idea but with more social engagement. But, I’ve never tried Sweek – let me know if you have.
This is a supportive platform full of advice and information, mainly for people interested in children’s fiction through to YA fiction.
They have exclusive opportunities for paid members but also have events for all. For the public they host an annual book festival (with opportunities to pitch & meet agents) and competitions.
Check out publishers that publish books like yours. Although they probably don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, they may run a competition.
I entered Chicken House Publisher’s children’s fiction competition. Although I didn’t win, it was another option.
Bath Novel Awards
Look out for competitions like The Bath Novel Awards. This competition is judged by Literary Agents and readers. The winners gets a lump sum and offered representation.
Having this kind of accolade as you publish is going to be great for marketing your book. That’s why winning any competition is valuable to an author.
If you can find a mentor, they can support you in getting published. There are plenty of competitions to find a mentor. This is another service offered by Write Mentor
The Arts Council England have different programs around the country to support writers. For example, in Norwich the National Writing Centre has mentors, and you can enter their Escalator competition to win one.
Book Festival Pitch Events
Look out of opportunities to pitch direct to an agent. Think of it like speed dating. You only have a few minutes to sell your book face-to-face. It helps to go prepared.
I took part in one at YALC and both agents I pitches to requested my manuscript.
Twitter Pitch Events
PitMad is probably the biggest query Twitter event but there are many more and some are genre sprcific.
You need to pitch your novel in a Tweet. Interested agents & publishers will like the tweet as a request. You follow their submission guidelines if you are interested back. Remember, you don’t have to send it if you’re not interested.
If you’re on Twitter search for the hashtag #MSWL (Manuscript Wishlist) plus other keywords. For example, I searched for #MSWL #Mermaid to discover who wanted a mermaid story.
Even then, my MS wasn’t suitable for all. Some wanted a LGBTQIA+ mermaid story which Ocean Heart was not. Another wanted a mermaid story that represented BAME or other minority groups. Another was looking for a fantasy erotic novel.
It’s not worth wasting your time sending your MS to someone if they are looking for something specific and your MS doesn’t match.
I kept most of my queries to the UK as I liked the idea that I could meet my agent/publisher in person. However, technology is changing all the time and making it accessible to meet people all over the world from your armchair.
During a Write Mentor festival, I got a one-on-one with a Literary Agent miles away. Whilst editing Ocean Heart, I had a meeting with my editor who was in another country.
Don’t restrict yourself by location.
I hope these 12 ideas help you in expanding your query options.
If you’re interested in indie publishing, stay tuned. I got sick of waiting for someone to say yes, so I gave myself permission to publish. I’ll be sharing my journey to help others interested in self publishing.
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