Toolbox 14: Query Revamping

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


Last post I shared that I submitted to ten agents since then I’ve received eight rejections. All form letters confirmed in QueryTracker.

A quick visit to  Query Shark, some heavy reading and I went into revamp mode.

I reworked my query, synopsis, and sample chapters.  I didn’t have to redo all of it. Form letters usually mean the reader didn’t get past the query letter, but once I started fixing things…

What i focused on when revamping

What’s the hook? Many of the example letters started off with a general book description. I didn’t make this mistake. I’m pretty sure I was too vague. She strongly suggests looking for the crux of the character’s dilemma, a rhetorical question, or grabbing the reader with a tagline.

Why does anyone care? Excellent question—hence the rewrite. Several actually. It took work to pin down why anyone would care and want to read my book.

Maintaining an even ten

Ten queries are out and its been quiet. Of the seven rejections, one came the next day. So now I’m wondering if I hit a busy patch or maybe they haven’t gotten to me yet. OR, fingers crossed, my query letter survived the agent’s initial read through and is in a holding pattern.


I’ve read this process can take years and it has been suggested I get working on my next project just in case I run out of agents on my list to keep me moving forward.

What do you do to keep a positive outlook when submitting?

53 responses to “Toolbox 14: Query Revamping

  1. Some agents and publishers can take months to get to a query letter. I try to DLP’s response time to 3 weeks or less. I know writers are out there waiting.

    • We are. I’ve learned a lot querying. Mostly that publishers and agents walk a fine line between finding exactly what they are looking for and encouraging writers to resubmit as they improve their craft.

      Nothing is personal.

  2. Good suggestions, Anna. I am abysmal at query letters no matter how much time I put into rewrites. I had given up but you might have re-inspired me.

  3. Keeping my fingers crossed for you, Anna. Did you send out the reworked queries already as well, or are you still creating those? I love how you do your research and are moving forward with improvements and new determination. Well done!

  4. One strategy I’ve heard and like is to have other projects in different stages. Even as one story is getting revised, another is being developed as a vague idea or outline, and once the prior story is sent off, the second one steps in as a full rough draft and revision project.
    But recently I’ve come to believe that another important aspect of writing is engaging in other activities that offer an element of validation/praise that is unrelated to and independent from writing. Sometimes this can be something stable like cooking or crafting, other times it can be that’s what’s needed is a feeling of chance and luck (i.e. a video game). But I definitely think, in addition to taking a break from time to time, we also need to actively engage something that grants us a sense of more immediate accomplishment, to tide us over until writing eventually follows through.

  5. Hi, Anna,

    I’m right there with you. Lately, I’ve been lucky and the agents asked for fulls in my previous two queries. Sadly they passed. UGH. I sent out another and heard nothing back. It truly is a WAITING game. I’ve sent about thirty queries on this particular novel. And I will continue on… I may just send out a few directly to the publishers. Maybe they will feel differently then those elusive agents.

    Good luck! Keep us posted.

  6. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in those query trenches. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  7. I wouldn’t worry too much about hitting a busy patch. Agents are always busy. Unless they are closed to queries, it’s probably fine. The only exception to this is December. Agents are often inundated with unedited NaNoWriMo novels.

    Also keep in mind that some agents only respond to emails if they want to see more. You can usually find this information in query tracker. Best of luck!

    • They have a code @ QueryTracker: CNR. It means Closed No Response, indicating dead air once the deadline has come and gone. I’ve used it once so far and moved on. No poke. No nudge.

      I can take a hint. 🙂

  8. I am learning a lot reading your post. Enjoying the lessons and the questions your journey raises for you.

  9. I think you are doing it. Get excited about something new and dive in 🙂

  10. Have you found any of the formulas for the body/story of your query? There are about 3 good ones that I know of. Try googling query letter formula. Also, I’ve read some advice contrary to what you found: rhetorical questions in queries, I don’t think this is advised. Great post, Anna! Querying is so hard!

  11. I think part of maintaining a positive outlook on any kind of submission is to get your mind off of it. That is, distract yourself from thinking about rejections or acceptances. That, in addition to the fact that it can take years, is why people recommend that you get to work on other projects. But it’s tough: you need your head in the game enough to maintain vigilance about submitting, but not so much that your mood hinges on the next reply you get from an agent.

  12. I only went through a very short query round once–I don’t have the patience for it. I used to intern for a literary agent. They’re inundated with queries every day and if they request a partial or a full, there’s likely an intern or assistant reading it first.

  13. I revamp my queries A LOT. As a matter of fact, I just revamped a query yesterday. 🙂 I rework my query, it seems, every few months. I send out to several, and when I don’t hear back or get rejections, I take another look. Queries are so hard to get right.

  14. Welcome to the query trenches! They aren’t much fun, so we have to look out for each other. One thing I do to survive is create a shield. An honest, literal shield. I keep positive feedback, contest wins, nice reviews, good beta reader comments, etc in a particular folder. When the rejections start to pile on, I open up that folder and remind myself why I can keep going. Considering physically printing out everything and keeping it in a nice cheerful binder with sunny things on the cover.

  15. I try to look at the query suggestions for my back cover blurbs, since someone once told me that a good one could act as both. I haven’t done any actual querying, but I’ve heard it takes a while. I hope you hear back something positive!

  16. I’m in favor of keeping a positive attitude on everything. If you haven’t heard either way, you might as well assume the best. Best to you on this journey!

  17. I love the question “Why does anyone care?’ It’s a great way to help create a hook. Query letters are difficult beasts that I wish I could avoid.

  18. I just landed by dream agent this summer, but I used to stalk QueryTracker like crazy. I’d analyze the order of replies that were recorded by other QT users and half-imagined I knew exactly when the agent was reviewing my query (if they were going in order of received, which is impossible to predict). Long story, short: I’ve been there! Keep your spirits up! While I was waiting, I often got lost in reading, or began re-writing again before I received all query responses.

  19. I struggle like crazy after I’ve submitted anything. Waiting is hard and nerve wracking, but some agents and publishers have a huge backlog so months can tick by before you hear anything.
    The best resource I’ve found is Morgan’s query corner:
    Writers submit drafts of their queries and she makes suggestions for improvements in her blog posts.

  20. You’ve got such a good system going, I definitely need to take a leaf out of your book! I sent a bunch of queries last Oct and more in Jan but nothing since, and I’ve had responses from almost all of them now, mostly positive but still rejections, so I definitely need to rework my submission package. Thanks for the tips!

  21. Victoria Marie Lees

    This is great concrete info for me to process for when my book submitting time arrives. All the luck with submitting for this manuscript. You have the right attitude and work ethic to make publishing a reality.

  22. I’m indie, so I don’t have to query. But self-publishing has a nail-biter list all its own. LOL Good luck. Maybe your revamp hooked them!

  23. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with querying, and since I’m commenting on this post a little late, I hope that your querying has been more fruitful this month! Submitting to places is always nerve-wracking, though lately I’ve had a kind of “set it and forget it” mindset with submitting to literary journals. They’ll get back to me when they get back, and in the meantime there’s always more work to do. It’s never pleasant when the rejection comes back months later, but it’s all part of the process.

    Best of luck!

    • Not much luck in the submission department but I’m also working on something new. Believe me that is the only way to take the hits that keep on coming.

      Getting an agent is a year (or two or three) long endeavor. When you make the leap, plan on the long haul. 😉

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