Manuscript Monday: What to do with a successful query


You’ve done it. You’ve written a query letter and the agent or editor likes your submission. Now what? How do you deal with the high of a successful query?

The first step you should take is to go back to the agent/editor/publisher’s website and review their submission policies. Make sure you know exactly what they want, if they request documents formatted in a certain fashion, or any other specifics.

Next, review your query letter. Reflect on your tone, your voice, and your personal character. The responding agent clearly likes this person and wants to deal with them. Continue to give them exactly what they like.

Move on to reviewing the response again. Is there anything they ask for in this query? Do they give you timelines for your response or their expected response? Do they tell you if they will answer you back or they’ll only answer if they want to open contract discussions?

Take note of these requests. Write them on a sticky note that you place in a prominant location in your writing or work area.

What we recommend is creating a spreadsheet for your submissions to track dates, locations sent, specifications like whether or not you can submit the manuscript to multiple places, and if the piece was accepted or not.

Seems easy enough, right?

Not exactly. So many authors make it to this point and then blow it with a Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza. We know it’s exciting but don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

When you write your response, keep the same tone and attitude as your intial outreach. Don’t get too excited, don’t brown nose, and for the love, do not use text talk. Give the agent exactly what they ask for. No more, no less, and quietly return to your place in line.

Where most authors go wrong is the follow up. One week will pass and they will write because they expect results or a response saying when to expect results. As easy as it is, do not fall into this trap. Many agents, editors, and publishers will find it disrespectful. We often work with multiple queries at a time. Many publishing houses don’t send rejections, only acceptance letters. You might push your manuscript from that acceptance into the rejection by being too persistent.

If it does turn out that you get a rejection letter in the end, don’t ask why. Don’t ask for feedback or an explanation, and most certainly, do NOT send back a firey response. People talk and the industry tends to be pretty tied together. We know of many publishing houses that will take a manuscript not right for them and forward it to a friend. It’s much easier to chew when your foot isn’t in your mouth.

If you are offered a contract, contain your excitement. Don’t sign until you understand exactly what you are signing, what you are granted, what your rights are, what you do NOT get under your contract, and never sign until you have passed the document past a lawyer.

You have put blood, sweat, tears, and many sleepless nights into your manuscript. Make sure that what you move forward with is what you want. Chances are, you’ll know if the publishing house fits your needs and desires by their website. You shoudln’t be surprised by what a house can offer you based on their size if you’ve properly done your research.

Getting an offer and then turning it down because what they state they can offer doesn’t meet your expectations, especially after it is listed on their website, wastes their time and money, and your time and money (as you could have been securing a contract that meets your needs),

Have you ever had a successful query letter? Share your experiences with us in the comments, or tell us how you’ve grown in your query letter journey!


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