Querying In the Digital Age: With Information Comes Power

“It’s not right for us at this time.”

“I didn’t connect with the voice the way I’d hoped.”

“We’re not looking for books in that genre.”

stressThe publishing industry has many rules and guidelines, lots of contradicting advice, and often polarizing opinions. I empathize with you writers. I can see how all this information buzzing about the internet is making things simultaneously more accessible yet more confusing.

  • Whose advice do you take?
  • How can you be sure X website has the most up to date information?
  • What does that rejection really mean?
  • Does the transparency on social media sites really help you query agents?

With more knowledge comes more questions. It was easier five years ago when you could pick up a copy of the Guide to Literary Agents, circle your agent selections, and send out your queries in the mail. Granted, every agent had different guidelines then as we do now, but it was a bit more straightforward. You would get a call if an agent was interested or you’d get your material mailed back to you with a form rejection letter 1-6 months later.

Things have gotten more complicated with some agents taking only e-queries or only paper queries, some agents have you fill out a template form on their website and more. Some agents engage you on email, some on the phone. With the current transparency of many agents and agencies on Twitter, Facebook and their websites there is more information to process and wade through. Don’t feel overwhelmed, we’re just trying to help you target your queries more accurately to get a better success rate.

Benefits of querying in the digital age:

  • Up to the minute publishing deal information via Publisher’s Weekly, Publisher’s Marketplace and more
  • Clear guidelines on every agency’s website that are up to date
  • Websites like ‘Preditors & Editors’ that let you know who has shady business practices
  • Networks of querying writers like yourself
  • Finding critique partners over the internet that don’t limit you to in-person groups
  • Instant feedback from agents and editors via email
  • Agents and editors on Twitter constantly handing out great, free information about what we’re looking for and what doesn’t work for us

With information comes power. Use it to your advantage: wade through the volume to find the important facts; be the journalist of your career; evaluate your sources of information; learn the publishing industry from the outside; and take everything with a grain of salt.

Holy Grail of querying information? Agency’s websites. These are the facts, the rest is just hearsay.

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

6 thoughts on “Querying In the Digital Age: With Information Comes Power

  1. I’m glad the process is faster these days! I don’t mind doing my research before querying (it definitely came in handy for me recently and helped me to really tailor my letters which resulted in page requests and my first full!) And I love when agents post things like this. It helps clear up some of the confusion and let’s us know it’s ok to ask questions. Thanks for this!


  2. I wanted to thank you for posting this entry, along with all the other helpful ones that I’ve read on your blog.

    I’m sure you’ve heard it so many times before, but everything that happens after the writing can be such an unbelievably overwhelming experience (in the complete opposite way of the overwhelming excitement one feels when actually writing the novel).

    In all my seemingly endless hours of doing research on potential agents to query and the way the entire process should be handled – often finding contradictory information on what is expected/sought after, of course – I had never found Preditors & Editors. The fear of unknowingly getting involved with a business or person that could potentially ruin everything is something that has plagued me from the moment I made the decision to pursue the dream further than just writing the books. When I looked at that website? The Hallelujah Chorus was sounding off in my head.

    Thank you again for taking the time to give all of us these gems of advice and assistance. With the nature of this industry, it’s like a breath of fresh air. We writers have to learn how to hold ours until those few rare moments.


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