9 Tips on Querying Agents - #GetPublished

9 Tips on Querying Agents

Primarily, agents and editors are looking for writers who are ready for publication. Do NOT send them the first draft of your novel. Other writers must have critiqued your work,  you must have numerous beta readers read your manuscript, and you should have completed at least 10 or more complete revisions. Yes, 10 or more! And please make sure to follow their formatting guidelines.

HEROINES: should be sassy, independent young women with an interesting profession or hobby. She can handle the stresses of today’s world and take care of herself. She should be smart, competent, passionate and likable…yet flawed. Yup, flawed. Either emotionally or physically flawed in some way. No Mary Sues.
HEROES: should be dynamic, courageous, realistic, and compassionate. Young men who treat the heroine as an equal, with respect for her intelligence and individuality, and gallantry. The hero should be a dashing character, someone the reader falls in love with along with the heroine. 
Heroines in YA: the teenage (12-17) protagonist(s) should centrally experience and grow by her dramatized choices, actions, and concerns, which drive the plot forward, and is narrated with relative immediacy to the teenage perspective. A kick-ass heroine who young readers can empathize with, and knows her mind. She is confident, assertive and responsible, and determined to uncover the truth, or solve the problem, or save the day.

BTW, it should seem obvious, but thought I'd mention that teen novels have teenage protagonists, which sets them apart from adult fiction. It is all about VOICE. If you're still not sure if your MS is YA or Adult, please read this post: YA vs Adult Fiction  

In the subject line of your email submission, please include the word query, MS title, and genre. In the body of your email paste your query and the first 5 pages of your MS following the formatting guidelines below. Your query SHOULD look like a professional letter. 

Standard Manuscript Submission Guidelines:
  • Accepted formatting is 12-point Times Roman font, left justified
  • 1" page margins all around, double-spaced
  • 0.5 paragraph indents for all new paragraphs and no extra space between sentences.
  • First page should contain word count, author contact information, and the title ONLY.
  • The second page should have the header, which includes the author's last name, MS title, and the page number in the left-hand corner.
  • All new chapters need to start on a new page, with the title of the chapter underlined and centered at the top and the actual text beginning halfway down the page.
  • All of your documents must be saved with your last name first, a dash and then the MS title or heading. Example: “Soule – Crescent Moon” or “Soule - Crescent Moon – Synopsis.” 


Avoid repeated rejections. Please take this advice to heart, so your work stands a chance of being published some day.

Every manuscript can always benefit from revision. In addition, you should diligently study the craft of writing, read books and blogs on self-editing, take classes or workshops, and seriously approach writing as a career.

I believe the first thing all writers should keep in mind - whether unpublished, or even published - is that the first chapter is what I consider your “opening hook”. The first chapter is one of the most vital elements in your story, because the opening is what will convince the reader to buy the book or not. 

Strive for fast pacing  to engage the reader. Lace in unanswered questions that wouldn't be answered until later in the story. This is critical. Show, don’t tell. Use action and dialog. Keep narrative short. No back story. Lots of white space. Just concentrate on these important elements: suspense, surprise, foreshadowing, and tension.

Every scene in your manuscript must be necessary, but this is especially true in the first chapter. Strive to tantalize and stir emotion within the reader, and make them curious enough to want to know what happens next. Introduce the main character, hint at the conflict, and set up a situation that gets emotions churning and draws the reader into the story. Don’t wait. DIVE IN HEAD FIRST. Hopefully, you've read all the great advice I've provided on this blog and applied it to your writing. :-)


Revising encompasses many levels of intensity from basic proofreading to substantial reworking and rewriting. Even cutting out entire scenes or adding sections to smooth out rough transitions within a manuscript. To produce professional and effective literature, the editing process will go far beyond merely proofreading your work.
Editing is a long, difficult process. It can take even the most experienced writer a great deal of time, effort, and patience. However, the end results are well worth it. Overcoming the protective impulse to cling to an original draft as divine art will serve any writer well. Be open-minded to criticism.
Editing isn't easy. Be ruthless. Kill your darlings. 

In any good story, the element of suspense is very important; however, it is equally important to have a tight, believable story line. Avoid contrived, predictable, or clich├ęd plots. The heroine should be someone compelling and interesting, even quirky. Avoid the "info dump." Too much exposition can ruin a story—part of the enjoyment of a story is the puzzle. When dealing with tense, heart-pumping plot points, dialogue should reflect the emotional content of the scene.

IMPORTANT TIP: Current formatting guidelines from most publishers say to put all internal dialogue in italics, and when writing in first person, also put it into present tense. And don't forget to include the ages of your characters in your synopsis.

Find a Critique Partner or Group

If you can't afford to hire a professional editor, then find a critique group or partner. (Or both) Critiquing is usually best done by a competent person (another writer would be a wise choice over family and friends) other than the writer. Because a writer is often emotionally attached to their work and reluctant to approach the prose with the attitude of a critical eye, find a good critique partner who knows writing, and indicates obvious overlooked errors, yet brutally honest in their evaluation of your novel. Be impartial to negative feedback, so you can revise successfully. 

With so many resources available for writers, it should be easy to find a competent person who can help you polish your work for an audience. Although this kind of feedback is invaluable, every writer should also assess their work by switching gears and looking at the work from the editing perspective instead of the writing perspective. Put yourself in the readers place. Or hire a freelance editor to proofread your work before you submit, or use this amazing software program AutoCrit Wizard

Use a Spell and Grammar Checker

I shouldn’t even have to add this, but please run your manuscript through the Spelling and Grammar function of your Word processing program AGAIN. With all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve spent on your manuscript and then rewriting it, trust me, you’ve been scrutinizing your manuscript for so long, you’ve probably missed something.

Use an Audio Device

Yes, you need to do an audio check, too. You'll catch more of those misspelled words. It is GREAT for dialogue. You can put your work into a PDF format (there are free ones out there like Cute PDF) and you can use Adobe Reader—it’s free, too. Or use ReadPlease (try the free download and have your text read back to you)

Then lean back in your chair, turn up your computer speakers, and listen to your manuscript aloud. The voice may sound robotic, but listening to your story read out loud will help you catch medium errors, improve rhythm and flow, and most importantly enhance your dialogue by making it come alive, all things even the spell checker can miss.


"Sit down every day and DO IT. Writing is a self-taught craft; the more you work at it, the more skilled you become. And when you're not writing, READ."
~ bestselling author, Lois Duncan

Hope this info helps you on your writing journey!
~Creativity Coach, S. A. Soule

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