Ok, after the writing, reading, editing, reading, editing, and so forth.
Yes, I'm referring to the querying. There, I said it!
I've noticed there's an assumption amongst some agents that due to electronic querying writers can spit out queries at a rate of five per minute. This may be true for some out there. In fact, from all the agent comments on Twitter I don't think I can dispute it happens at an alarming rate. So, in an effort to defend the work habits of my species, I must make a note about querying process.
Personally, I end up writing about ten to fifteen short summaries of my book during and after the writing process, just for use in my query letter. I ask friends, relatives and strangers on the street what they think of this summary. I change them, dream about them, and start from scratch. But that is not where the query work begins.
You see, I'm a writer. Details are, shall we say, IMPORTANT to me. So when I'm looking at agents to query I generally do the following things:
Look at the agency website
Look at blogs of everyone they've ever known from high school on
Read every interview I can find
Follow them on twitter (if I don't already)
Look at the agent website
Look at any writing websites that mention them or the agency or the type of pet they own
Look at the agency website again, reading every link and page noted (again)
As you can imagine, there comes a moment when I feel a bit stalker-ish and try to tone it down.
The point is, I do my best to know what that agent likes, what that agency represents, and how they want to be approached. This isn't a quick process, let me tell you.
By the time I start to write the actual query I've already invested about 1-2 hrs in that one query email (not including the part about the book itself.)
I then gather the appropriate materials requested, format them accordingly, put them into an email, re-read every part of it, stress a whole lot, click send, then open it up and read it again. At which point I usually find some glaring mistake in the font size of my phone number or something and have nightmares that night.
After that, I look at the next agent on my pre-researched list and begin the whole process once more.
So, agents, I understand you're getting a lot of queries that seem to be fired from a cannon at random. But I want you to know that amongst those queries there are others whose processes are painstaking and thorough. Sometimes we make mistakes too, but we try and we care. When I hit send my heart skips a little and there's a tug at my soul as a piece of me flies through the computer to you. That piece of me is called hope. I put it in your hands knowing that the truth may disappoint, but that's ok, because when you appreciate my efforts it's worth it. Maybe you're not the right agent for me, but I can tell the difference between a grateful let down and a put down.
Maybe the next time you're deleting one of those query-a-minute queries, you'll remember that there are the rest of us out here too. You may not hear from us as often, because we're working hard to represent the hard work we've already done.
Try not to grow weary before you read my query.
The obsessive perfectionist writer type