Months 13 and 14: Querying for a Literary Agent

notebooks and laptop

I have finally made it to the last post in my 14-Month Short Story Collection Plan. (Links to each month at the end of this post.) Just as tall buildings jump from floor 12 to 14, I skipped a post in September for the thirteenth month of this project.

Last month I wrote and sent my first query letter to a literary agent on September 19. I’ve written many query letters to magazine editors and I thought that preparing one for an agent would be just as easy. However, my first draft was bottom-heavy.

If you’re familiar with the query letter format, the closing part of the letter is usually about the author and why you’re the best person to write the book. I’ve spent the last 7+ years growing my author platform because I’ve heard repeatedly that agents don’t want to work with authors who don’t have a platform. I launched and grew this blog, run a newsletter for writers, grew two regional writing groups to 1,600+ members, spoke at conferences, and I didn’t want to leave any piece out.

I realized I needed to do three things. I started asking:

Why? 

Why would a literary agent care about this? Or that? I went through each part of my “about me” paragraph and started deleting parts that represented redundant traits. It’s very similar to how I manage resume writing.

What?

What do publishers say about contemporary short story collections? What hooks me about book reviews of short story collections? I looked at my “about the book” paragraphs and realized I needed to step in and tease out a few of the details in the stories rather than talking about the book overall.

Win?

You may remember my B, A, C, D-List philosophy for querying agents (Month 12). Essentially, I made a list of approximately 40 agents and graded them based on who they represent and what they’re looking for. If they would be a great fit, they’re on the A List. I decided to flex my query muscles by reaching out to the B List first. That way I could iron out my query letter before placing it in front of other top matches. As I researched to make this list over the past two months, I realized there was a lot of opportunity in contests. I’ve submitted to three short story collection book contests and have a few more to go. Since a literary agent is not the only path to publishing a book, I figure the contest route is another favorable option. Beyond that, I have several small presses in another spreadsheet.

Now that my 14-month plan is over, I’m sticking with querying, contest submissions, and small press contacts. Then it will be time to ask, What’s next?

In case you missed them:

Month 1: Short Story Collection Planning

Month 2: Short Story Collection Writing

Month 3: Short Story Collection Writing

Month 4: Short Story Collection First Lines

Month 5: Short Story Collection Surprises

Month 6: Short Story Collection Draft Complete

Month 7: Short Story Collection Critiques

Month 8: Short Story Collection Typing

Month 9: Short Story Collection Revisions

Month 10: Short Story Collection Editor Review

Month 11: Working With an Editor

Month 12: Finding an Agent

Months 13 and 14: You’re here.