For those who asked how I researched 100 agents and other specifics:
Agent Query has the most up to date information, and you can narrow your search to, for example, agents who represent different genres in fiction and nonfiction, or agents who accept email queries. It is the largest online searchable database (anything in print risks being outdated as soon as it’s published). AQ also provides links to agents’ websites. Publishers Marketplace is another excellent source. For a $20 monthly fee, you can research dozens of agents’ sales records and what publishers they sell to—both important details—in one month. Beyond that, I also googled agents’ names and read online interviews so I could tailor each query to their interests. I queried established agents as well as newer ones, as long as they worked for an agency with a good track record. I looked for agents who represented fiction similar to my novel.
I used Word Excel to keep track of names and what agencies they worked for, addresses, emails, and exactly what information they wanted with queries. I made a list of forty, and then started sending letters out in small batches. I marked the date that I sent the query, and when I got a response. Whenever I had free time, I did more research and added to my list.
I also logged comments that came with rejections from the agents who’d read a few chapters or the mss, such as “I wasn’t grabbed by the characters,” or “It didn’t draw me in as I’d hoped,” so I could see if a pattern arose that might indicate I needed to do further editing. After about four months, I trimmed the mss, tinkered with the point of view, and quickened the pace.
My standard response to rejections was “Thank you for your interest and time.” I tried hard not to take them personally, and I have to say, all of the agents were respectful and polite. It was still disappointing, but I didn’t cry. Well, maybe once.
About the query letter itself: mine opened with a one sentence hook, followed by the genre and word count (which every agent wants up front), and then the pitch. In the pitch, I gave enough information about the main character to make the agent curious about her. When I asked writer Kevin St. Jarre to read my query, he mentioned that I needed to add something to make the agent care about the characters, which made a big difference when I did. I also made the conflict in the story clear. Eventually I found a way to use colorful language to show what sets my writing apart. As I mentioned, I constantly reevaluated my query it as I worked down my list, and as I did, I noticed got more requests for the mss.
The query letter is still the best way to get your work in front of an agent, unless you have a personal connection. I took my time writing it, and researching who to send it to.
in the context of Love:
Angelica had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
Angelica Schirrick wonders how her life could have gotten so far off-track. With her two children in tow, she leaves her felon husband and begins a journey of self-discovery that leads her back home to Ohio. It pains her to remember the promise her future once held, that time before the disappearance of her first love, and the shattering revelation that derailed her life and divided her parents. Only when she finally learns to accept the violence of her beginning can she be open to life again, and maybe to a second chance at love.
In the Context of Love, adult contemporary fiction by Linda K. Sienkiewicz is available on Amazon.