Ah, the age old question: When to query an agent?
I’m not going to waste my virtual breath and say, “when your novel is finished,” because you wouldn’t DREAM of shopping a novel before it’s done and edited, would you?
I’m also not going to say, “when they’re open to unsolicited queries,” because you’d NEVER disrespect an agent’s closed status, and you’d do one last social media/website check just before hitting “send” to ensure they’re still open, won’t you?
So, other than those times, when do you query an agent?
When you’re emotionally ready for rejection. And lots of them.
Ehh, who am I kidding? No one’s ready for rejection when they first start querying. Everyone believes in their soul that the first agent they’ve chosen is going to love their book as much as they do. They’re such a PERFECT match, fate itself would blush for not having endorsed it first. How could it not work out?
Meh, agents are that way. They tell you what they want, you give it to them, then they decide it’s not good enough. Right?
Wrong. Because it’s not just you giving it to them—it’s another 100 people that month. Week. Day. So your stuff has to stand out.
Start querying after your query stands out.
If you can replace your protagonist’s name with the main character’s name of a similar book, and your query describes that similar book perfectly, then your query probably does not stand out enough. Your query needs to be unique to your book.
When you’re able to not lash out at the agent.
I will admit that I’ve seen agents respond inappropriately to writers. And I’ve seen a lot of writers take extremely unbiased rejections personally.
Whether or not their attitude is legitimate or if their words were taken the wrong way, don’t respond. If it irks you so, delete them from your future query list and move on because if you blow up at them, you’ll burn bridges and build a reputation.
Sometimes rejection gets easier, but it’s not always easy. Find a healthy way to deal with it. In the sage words of Cathleen Townsend, “If you must blow off steam, do it someplace that isn’t online. Heated words on the internet can haunt you forever.”
If you’re prepared to write more.
Some agents will only represent your one book, but most want to work with you long-term and represent most, if not all, of your future projects. Whether that be because “they see you as a gold mine,” or because they genuinely want to help you shape your career and be there the entire journey, most want you to have other projects in mind.
When you’re ready to succeed.
You’ll fail at getting an agent a ton of times. That’s just how it is. But when you’re ready to stop being scared of succeeding (what’s holding you back?), then query.
And when you’re ready to query an agent, check out choosing an appropriate agent to query.