You have a finished manuscript. Your query is polished. You've researched agents and have a handy spreadsheet that you're ready to use. Now what?
Here is my attempt to answer a few of your questions about the query process. :)
How many agents do you send it to?
Honestly, I started out with around 5 or 6. If I got a few requests, then I'd send a few more. My max was around 10 out at the same time. When I'd get a rejection, I'd send another one out to keep the same amount floating around in agentland. You can send as many as you want, but I'd recommend small numbers since you don't know right away if your query will get any bites. Then as you get requests, you can send a larger number out. Just make sure you keep track of every single agent you send to.
How do you keep track of who you've queried?
I used a little spreadsheet for mine. You write all the agents down, the date you sent them a query, the date you got a request for a partial, for a full, and the date they reject you. Because you will get rejections and you don't want to query the same agent again.
Do you personalize each letter?
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Agents can tell when you send a mass query letter out to every agent in agentland. You don't have to be a suck up and tell them how amazing and how lovely they look in their pictures. Just give them a reason to keep reading. Read up on who/what they represent and mention it in your query. If you love a book or author they represent, tell them. Keep it short and sweet, but make sure you have at least a little line about why you queried them.
What do I do when I get a request for a partial or full?
Agents always have guidelines that they'll e-mail you with. Usually they just tell you to e-mail the full or partial with REQUESTED MATERIAL and your book title and last name in the subject line. You don't want them to have to sift through a million e-mails to find it again. Just follow their directions and you'll be fine. If they say send it on over, send it over. If they ask for specific directions, follow them!
What do I do while I'm waiting to hear back?
Oh, man.Waiting is so hard. And honestly, you never ever stop waiting. Seriously. Even after you get an agent. More waiting. Even after you get a book deal. More waiting. This business is slow, so get used to waiting. In the meantime, don't check your e-mail fifty times a day. Believe me when I say it will drive you absolutely crazy. Keep yourself busy. Write another book. And if you get a request for more material, you are allowed to be happy and excited. You can get your hopes up, but be prepared for anything. An agent can reject you for the littlest thing. Personal taste, too many mistakes, voice, the story itself, whatever. But they could also love it. It honestly just depends on the agent. :)
Next week I'll go through what you should do when you get an offer of representation. Stay tuned! :)
And don't forget to enter my contest for a copy of Matched by Ally Condie! The contest ends on Friday. ;)