My love for bees is a relatively new fascination. I did not set out to write a book about bees. My first book (still a WIP) is actually about a puffin. As I researched bees for my story, I fell in love with them. They are organized, follow set rules, and like things orderly. Everyone has a role in the hive; if they don't perform, the hive will eventually collapse. There aren't King Bees, only Queen Bees. Drone bees can't decide to be worker bees- you understand my point.
I started thinking about this and realized we could learn A LOT from bees. I love following rules and knowing what is expected. I like knowing there is a set pattern or routine to something. Writing requires sentence structure and punctuation. Picture book writing also has a bit of a pattern and many expectations. I began to wonder if my love for order, pattern, and clear expectations were how I was able to query and sign with an agent within a couple of weeks of my first submission. I want to share my process; hopefully, it can help you maneuver the query process.
First, I researched how to query. Here is an example of query letter info I found online. I read many articles, watched YouTube videos, and found webinars, example query letters, and templates. As I researched, I found certain information which was consistent.
Ensure your query is for a manuscript the agent wants to represent. You wrote a fantastic manuscript, but if the agent you query is looking for romance and you wrote sci-fi, they aren't going to fall in love with it. Chances are they won't read your manuscript. Keep looking for the right agent.
Find agents via books, websites, query tracker, but ALWAYS follow their specifications on how to submit. I never saw one who wanted queries mailed, but most had other specific instructions. Please read them and follow them.
Research your comps. This was my least favorite part, but if an agent asks for them, you must provide comps. This tells them many things- you understand the industry, where your book fits, are familiar with other books in your genre, how other similar books performed, etc. My agent recently shared what a potential client said "their book was unique, so why would they want to try to compare it" I admire and appreciate the confidence in this writer but not the way to impress an agent.
Read the agents' submission info on their website, or watch their videos if they are on YouTube- like BookEnds Literary Agency. I viewed all their videos on querying, and they were invaluable. Their biggest tip killed me- see #1. I wanted to query James SO bad, but I checked querytracker to check his wish list, and my book didn't work for him.
Always use basic spell check, grammar check, and have someone read over your work before submitting. As the old saying goes- you only have one chance to make a first impression- and you don't want to ruin your chance of getting a great book published with many simple errors. Most agents I listened to said minor errors weren't a big deal and they could overlook. Also, this was a big one- make sure to spell the agent's name correctly.
I used querytracker extensively but also made my own spreadsheet with my query information. This basically tells the whole story. After I did everything listed above, I started querying agents. I ensured they were accepting queries, gathered info, and took notes. Once I started sending queries out, I noted the date in order to follow up. I also kept track of their responses.
One thing I did, which I still don't know if it was good or bad- was I had several different stories ready, so I sent different ones to various agents. I looked at what they were already representing and tried to match the story I sent to their interests. I only sent my bee story to one agent, and that agent responded.
What I did after Dawn contacted me for the first call was for another blog post. Also, I have not published it yet. I may have been successful in getting an agent, but it is still to be determined if I will become a published author. However, I don't have any outstanding writing skills, which helped me sign with an agent. I think it was old-fashioned research. If I were to add a #6, I would say- leave your ego at the door. If an agent has asked for specific things, give them what they want. Even if you think your style is much better or what you want to include is more important. I amlucky because I walked into this knowing nothing, which is how I approached everything. I think it helped. As I get further into this process, I hope I am more confident because of the knowledge I have gained.
Good luck, and I'd love to hear about your experience. I am not an expert (see above), but I could be a sounding board or help direct you to a resource.