Skip to main content

When Can You Query Agents? How Do You Know if Your Project is Ready?

I just saw a great post on this over on the KidLit blog (run by agent Mary Kole) and wanted to address the question: "How Do You Know if Your Project is Ready to Send Out?"

I just saw a great post on this over on the KidLit blog (run by agent Mary Kole) and wanted to address the question: "How Do You Know if Your Project is Ready to Send Out?"

The common answer is something about how each project is different and it all depends, yadda yadda yadda—but that answer doesn't help you. The next thing people say is that you don't want to send it out before it's ready, meaning that it's much better to work on it longer and refine it rather than send it out too early just because you're sick of looking at it. (As one playwriting agent once said: "No play ever got produced too late.") This is damn good advice—one of the most important tips you can heed—but it still doesn't answer the question as specific to your manuscript.

The best answer I can give on the subject is this: If you think the story has a problem, it does. When I have edited full-length manuscripts in the past (some for SCBWI friends and others on a freelance editor basis), a lot of time, when I am addressing a problem in the book, the writer will nod before I even finish the sentence. What this means is that they knew about the problem and I just confirmed what they already knew.

For example, some typical concerns were stuff like this:

  • "This part where he gets beat up—it doesn't seem believable that so many kids just took off school like that."
  • "If the main character is so stealth, then how come he gets caught by the bad guys here?"
  • "It starts too slow."

These are garden variety problems with a manuscript, and writers all seem to know many of their problematic issues before anyone even tells them. So this all brings me back to Point #1: If you think your work has a problem, then it more than likely does—and any manuscript with a problem is not ready for agent eyes.

This shows the importance of beta readers—friends who will review the work once it's written. They will come back to you with concerns, both big and small. You address the concerns in a revision and send the work to more readers. Once readers stop coming back with concerns, you're starting to get somewhere. If you think you have issues, or multiple critiquers agree on a problem, then you're not ready for Querytime. If you're not sure the beginning starts fast enough, it probably doesn't. When you and your readers can look at a book and say that all concerns are adequately addressed, then you're ready.


How to Write a Compelling Premise for a Thriller

How to Create a Compelling Premise for a Thriller

Learn how to create a compelling premise for a thriller or mystery novel by asking a simple question and tying it to a specific circumstance to set the stage for a thrilling read.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Make a Plan

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Make a Plan

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters make a plan.

3 Tips for Writing Dystopian Young Adult Fiction

3 Tips for Writing Dystopian Young Adult Fiction

If you've ever heard it said that there's no new way to write a story, let author Julian R. Vaca tell you otherwise. Here, he shares 3 tips for writing dystopian young adult fiction to help silence our inner critics.

Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision

Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision

Author Rimma Onoseta discusses how seeing other Black female authors on bookshelves encouraged her to finish writing her contemporary YA novel, How You Grow Wings.

Writer's Digest September/October 2022 Cover

Writer's Digest September/October 2022 Cover Reveal

Writer's Digest is excited to announce our Sept/Oct 2022 issue featuring our Annual Literary Agent Roundup, an interview with NYT-bestselling YA horror novelist Tiffany D. Jackson, and articles about writing sinister stories.

Your Story #120

Your Story #120

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

5 Tips for Writing as a Parent

5 Tips for Writing as a Parent

Author Sarah Grunder Ruiz shares how she fits writing into her life and offers 5 tips on how to achieve a sustainable writing life as a parent.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 621

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an animal poem.

Why Is This Love Scene Here? How To Write Compelling Love Scenes

Why Is This Love Scene Here? How To Write Compelling Love Scenes

Not sure which way to turn when writing intimate scenes? Author Jo McNally shares how to write compelling love scenes that make sense for the story you’re writing.