Getting your query in the right inbox.

Hey there!

Believe it or not, the hardest part about the querying process isn’t writing the query (to read the one that worked for me, it’s right here), it’s deciding where to send it.


You might be saying, “But Tara, there are so many agents out there—and all I need is one to get me to the top of the bestseller list! Why shouldn’t I query all of them?”

Well, one reason is that most agencies have multiple agents—and you can usually only query one at a time.

More importantly, your success rate will be much, much higher if your target your list of agents from the start.

By targeting, I mean finding out:

  • Whether they’ve actually sold any books recently—and if they have, are they somewhat (but not too) similar to your manuscript?

  • How are they ranked in your genre?

  • Have they expressed interest in your concept/trope/heat level/time period/etc?

  • Are they currently accepting queries?

  • What are other writers saying about them?

  • How long should you expect to wait for a reply?

Maybe their profile page on their agency’s website hasn’t been updated recently. Just because it says they are accepting queries in your genre doesn’t mean they are actually selling them. True, there are a lot of literary agents. But the trick is finding the right agent for YOU and YOUR BOOK!


Here are some places to check before sending your query:

Publishers Marketplace

$25/Month (think of this as an investment, and you don’t have to keep your membership once your research is complete)

“Deals” > Dealmaker Type=”Agents” > Deals Category (YOUR category)

Using the rankings, research each agent (every deal, client, #MSWLpost for past 6 months)

Publishers Lunch

A free daily email from Publishers Marketplace

No search function, but sign up for it & make note of every deal that is similar to your ms

Query Tracker

Explore “comments” feed per agent. Consider querying agents with faster response time.

Read “success stories” per agent.

Use “sample query letters” in “success stories” as a guide for what works.


List of agents


#MSWL searches ( i.e. manuscript wish list. Most agents regularly tweet what’s they’d like to read)


“(Agent Name)” interview

Agent/Agency Websites

Study bio & submission requirements (they differ vastly between agents) 


By now, you should be asking, “Okay, Tara. What do I do with all this information?”

I’m so glad you asked!

  • Create a spreadsheet or doc with all the information you’ve gathered, and decide on a dozen or so agents.

Now, you are ready to query! (But not all at once. If you don’t have any success with that first grouping, rethink your query or writing sample. Is your first line strong enough? Is your “hook” intriguing enough? Are there any misspellings or typos? Have you included too much backstory?)


Tailor your query letter for each specific agent—in the 1st paragraph. Examples: site a represented book/author similar to yours, a #MSWL similar to yours, a line from an interview you connected with, an author’s comment about working with them, any school connections.

Start off on the right foot by sending exactly what each agent asks for. No more, no less.

And just a reminder:

DO NOT query until you have a completed manuscript and synopsis (preferably two—a short 2-3 page version, and a longer 5 page version).  Your query is not a way to test the waters for interest in your idea. It is a sales tool for a specific product—your manuscript.


Success = opportunity + preparation. If an agent gives you an opportunity, don’t blow it by being unprepared.


Best of luck!!!!

Tara Thompson