Query Letters

Which Word Count Do Agents Want?

Q: Traditionally, a novel’s word count was estimated by multiplying the number of pages by 250 words per page (assuming standardized margins, font, double space, etc.) Now, word processors can give exact word counts instantly. When agents ask for a novel’s word count, do they want the “traditional” word count or the “word processor”...

Do Agents Steal Your Stamps? (The SASE Conundrum)

Q: Do agents steam off the stamps on self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASEs) and resell them?! The agents demand pages, SASEs, that sort of‑thing, but—and I know this sounds cynical—many of my queries disappear.—Don B. A:Of course agents don’t steam off stamps from SASEs and resell them. They steam them off and use the stamps...

Can I Query Before I Finish My Novel?

Q: I’m currently writing my first novel and am about halfway finished, but I have completed an outline and synopsis. Can I start querying agents now? A: Being a first-time novelist, it’s important to finish your book before sending out any query letters. Without a track record, you have no proof that you can...

What Should You Include in Your Bio for Agents?

Q: I’ve recently finished my first novel and have begun searching for an agent to represent me. Some of the agents ask for a writer’s bio. Could you please tell me exactly what information I should include in this bio? What should be left out?—Terrie Smith A: Writers are often advised to write bios...

Two Pitches, One Magazine

Q: I’ve written two travel articles about two separate areas in a certain Canadian province. Should I mail them together to editors since they would go well together, or do they need to be mailed separately?—Sharon L. A: First thing you’ll want to do is send a query letter to the editors of the...

Covering the Cover Letter

Q: I’ve written a personal essay for a magazine that invites its readers to submit “meaningful remembrances.” The submission guidelines state that submitted articles are welcome for review. Should I send a query letter or send the essay along with a cover letter? What format should I use?—Carla V. Britt A: Cover letters generally...

How Many Rejections Does it Take to Self-Publish a Book?

Q: I’ve submitted my manuscript and query letters to various agents and publishers and have received several rejections. I feel this book is pretty marketable. How many agent rejections and how many publisher rejections do you think I should take as a signal to self-publish this book? I’m pretty tenacious. If need be, I...

How Do I E-mail Clips?

Q: When a publication requests e-queries and clips, how do you e-mail the clips?—Nannette Croce A: Sending clips via e-mail can be difficult. You can try scanning the images, but that sometimes blurs the words and makes the piece illegible. You can copy text into a word processing document and send it, but that...

Are Agents Stealing My Stamps?

Q: Do agents steam off the stamps on self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASEs) and resell them? The agents demand pages, SASEs, that sort of thing, but—and I know this sounds cynical—many of my queries disappear. In this age, why should we need to use what they call “snail mail” for queries and why do agents...

Live From LA: Questions from the Writer's Conference

Yesterday was the annual BEA/Writer’s Digest Books Writer’s Conference, and I was fortunate to be a panelist on the popular Ask the Editors session. The organizer, GLA editor Chuck Sambuchino, told me it was for my in-depth knowledge of the submission and editing processes and my familiarity with inexpensive ways to self-market work, but...

When's the Best Time to Query?

Q: When is the best time to query agents? I’ve heard different things, like winter is bad, summer is slow, but it’s OK in the spring. Is this true?—Kristen HoweA: Spring, summer, winter or fall—agents are continually looking for good manuscripts. You’ll occasionally find one who says that she doesn’t buy around the holidays...

Multiple Submissions Etiquette

Q: Is it proper to send out the same article to multiple publishers at the same time? What happens if several magazines accept the article?—Casey Magan A: Hmm, did you send this same question to other magazines, too? Sending out the same query to separate publications (simultaneous submissions) gives you more opportunities to get...

Accurate Writer's Guidelines

Q: I read Writer’s Digest and keep tabs when they run market listings and I also own a copy of Writer’s Market, but sometimes I go to the publisher’s or agency’s website and its guidelines are different. Which is more accurate?—Angel A: Companies’ websites are likely to be more up-to-date than any listing in...

Query Letter Synopsis

Q: Every time I start to write a query letter, I seem to write an entire synopsis of a work. How do I know where to stop? — Adora Mitchell BaylesA: This is an extremely common question. Most writers (myself included) can babble on about their brilliant ideas (which we all have many) and...