Deadly Ever After

5 Ways To Dodge Missiles In The Querying Trenches with Emmie Mears

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut crème in a can. It comes in a can, it’s so awesome.

By Julie

My delightful buddy Emmie Mears gave me the extreme pleasure of doing a guest post today, and she’s so smart it makes me look a little dumb. Please, enjoy her insight. Following this, buy her book. Go.

5 Ways to Dodge Missiles in the Query Trenches

Most writers going into querying know that rejection is involved. They even realize that it’s ubiquitous; a badge of honor among writers because it happens to everyone. Even so, when many writers start out, they don’t realize that they’re stepping onto a minefield whilst wearing snowshoes.


Here are five ways to ensure you’re not going in blindfolded as well.


5. Know what you’re up against.


The average agent gets between 100-1000 queries…per week. Yeah, you read that right. Per WEEK. Agent Suzie Townsend, when she used to do weekly query roundups, regularly reported between 500-900 queries each Friday. That’s just her. Not her whole agency. Because of that, agents read queries really quickly, which means you have to do a few things. At a bare minimum, you have to not immediately turn them off. Then you have to hook them. The former is simple enough; the latter can be tricky. The biggest thing to wrap your mind around as a new querier is that no matter how life-changing you think your book is, it’s competing against thousands of others.


4. Know what you have.


My debut was “Adult urban fantasy, complete at 88,000 words.” That one sentence told agents a lot that they needed to know. Which category (adult), which genre (urban fantasy), that it was indeed finished (it MUST be finished), and the word count (not 500K). If you can’t wedge your book into a statement like the above, you will need to assess why. While sometimes genre-bending books will sell huge and quick, the more common reality is that agents and editors all know that booksellers have to shelve books somewhere. If you’re going traditional, there are word count norms for each genre that new authors especially ought to keep in mind.


3. Know who you’re querying.


This ties into the whole “not immediately turning agents off” thing. This means doing your research. There are fantastic resources out there, from Query Tracker to the Absolute Write forums and blogs as well as Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents. Once you know what you have, make sure you research agents who are looking for just that. My own agent has told me that she gets a huge percentage of queries each week that just aren’t things she represents, like middle grade when she only reps YA and adult.


2. Follow directions.


Agents will all have submission guidelines. If they ask for the first five pages in the body of the email with the query, send exactly that. Don’t send an attachment unless they explicitly tell you to. Follow exactly what they say to do, because your query is the very first impression they have of you. If you’re querying agents, it’s because you probably want a traditional publishing deal. Going against guidelines tells them that you either didn’t care to read them, or that you read them and ignored them. Neither of those things make a good first impression in this business.


1. Write an excellent book.


Then do it again. The best way to be successful in querying is to write a fantastic book. Write something fresh and unique. That means knowing what’s out there in your genre so you know yours has a place and doesn’t retread the same paths other books have taken. It means learning your craft and being willing to revise and rewrite. It means being willing to take criticism and rejection. It means trying each day to be better.


Once you feel confident that the book you’re going to query is the best it can be, it’s time to write the next one. When I got my agent, I not only had the book in hand that she signed me for, but I had another manuscript finished (well, technically, three other manuscripts). When we got the offer on my debut, we were able to immediately start subbing my other manuscript. I have another one in the wings now. If you want to make noveling your career, you have to keep doing it. Sometimes first books don’t sell. Often, actually. And when they do, you want to have something else ready.


While the advice here might seem simple, any agent will tell you that a huge number of queriers don’t follow it. Simply doing these things sets you apart from thousands of writers in the query trenches — and means agents will associate your name with professionalism and respect, even if they pass on your manuscript.



Emmie Mears was born in Austin, Texas, where the Lone Star state promptly spat her out at the tender age of three months. After a childhood spent mostly in Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, she became a proper vagabond and spent most of her time at university devising ways to leave the country.

Except for an ill-fated space opera she attempted at age nine, most of Emmie’s childhood was spent reading books instead of writing them. Growing up she yearned to see girls in books doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things. Mid-way through high school, she decided the best way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor.

Emmie now lives in her eighth US state, still yearning for a return to Scotland. She inhabits a cozy domicile outside DC with two felines who think they’re lions and tigers.


You can preorder THE MASKED SONGBIRD here (! Released in a box set, you get four great paranormal and urban fantasy books for less than $4!


Follow Emmie on Twitter @EmmieMears and join her on Facebook!



Emmie Mears

Author of THE MASKED SONGBIRD (Harlequin 2014)

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