Three Ways to Know Your Query is in the Right Hands by guest blogger Melody Steiner

So you’ve received a form rejection letter. Maybe even a dozen of them. You’re feeling disillusioned, ready to put away the quill, and yet there’s a part of you that wants to know what you did wrong. Why the rejection? And why didn’t anyone take the time to send feedback?

My final post in this series deals with ensuring that you’re sending your query to someone who cares. In my experience, most people don’t. It’s nothing personal. It’s business. Think of it like this: you want to sell a pie to a donut shop. It’s probably not going to happen. Donut shops want donuts, pie shops want pies. And don’t submit a pecan pie to an all-fruit pie shop, either. They don’t want nut pies. No matter how prettily you decorate it, they won’t buy it.

So how do you make sure you’re submitting your pie, er, query, to someone who wants it?

  1. Check the online submission guides for the publishing house or agent you’re submitting to. Follow those guidelines to a tee. I made a mistake a few weeks ago, when I submitted a short story query for a manuscript with a word count of over 5,000 to a magazine that only accepted submissions of up to 4,000 words. I received an immediate rejection because of the word count. Oops. So see? It happens. We learn. We move past it.
  2. Meet the editor/agent in person. You are a thousand times more likely to get feedback, a positive response, or even an acceptance if you attend a writer’s conference, pitch to an agent or editor, and get the green light directly from them to send your query. Like any job, the personal touch really does make a difference.
  3. Use resources such as The Writer’s Market or Publisher’s Weekly to study up on the market. Read articles related to your genre that talk about tropes, clichés, or what not to write about. Submit to a magazine that actually takes your genre, and avoid submitting a query on a topic everybody else is writing on, and you’ll better your chances of success.  

I hope you’ve found this series informative, enlightening, or at the very least, mildly entertaining. Best of luck in your publishing endeavors!

-Melody

Melody Steiner works at an academic library as a circulation technician. In 2006, she graduated from a small private college in Ohio with a Bachelors of Arts in English. After she met and married her husband, they relocated to Seattle, WA. In March, 2011, she graduated from the University of Washington with a Master in Library and Information Science, aspiring to becoming a full-time librarian. Her hobbies include reading the latest YA series (recent favorites include Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go and Paoli Bacigalupi’s Shipbreaker), camping, and enjoying long walks with her best friend. Last November, they had their first little peanut—a rambunctious baby girl. In addition to adult science fiction, she writes fantasy and YA novels. She is represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency. You can find her at http://twitter.com/melody_steiner.
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