The Call

There’s a rumor that floats around in the world of writers about the publishing business. It references some kind of a phone call. In whispers among word slingers they talk about the moment when an agent reads your manuscript, loves it, and then wants to represent you and your work. It’s the call of the wild from the publishing world.

The Query

It’s a heady concept to take in if you’ve been in the query trenches. Most authors, whose books are lining public and private library shelves, spent years in the trenches before finding an agent. Did you know that Debbie Macomber spent five years in the query trenches?    

What and Where Are Query Trenches?

To explain, most writers dream of getting published in the traditional way. This is when one of the Big 5 publishing houses gives a writer a high five and crushes on their manuscript.

Like when the teacher in A Christmas Story…gives Ralphie an A+++++ on his report.

But in order for writers who yearn to see their beautiful book baby in the hands of beloved readers by a publishing house, they have to dig down and enter the query trenches and land a literary agent.

Here are some pivotal steps that writers need to accomplish in order to find an agent who is a good match for their work:

Step A:

Finish the Darn Book – Easier Said than Done – Get to The End

Step B:

Write a query. What’s a query? It’s takes all your 80-90 thousand words that are in your manuscript and synthesizes them down to 250 to 300 words about your story. A short version. Like what you find on the back cover of your favorite read at the library.

Step C:

Write a synopsis for your wonderful story. Again, you take your manuscript and pare it down to 900 words. Sure, you get a few more words, but they have to be composed with your story’s beginning, middle and end in mind.

Step D:

Do your research. You know your story is fantastic, but not everyone likes to read about how Tinkerbell and the Hulk met and fell in love at the barn dance on Fantasy Island. So, look for an agent who adores barn dances and ogles over the Hulk. It will be a better fit than an agent looking to pitch a story about Peter Pan. Make a list of your dream agents and open a spread sheet.

Step E:

Follow the directions and read the agency guidelines. One page in the email really means one page in the email. Not an attachment.

Step F:

Read the guidelines and follow the agency directions. No attachments mean no attachments. Then hit send.

Step G:

Stare at your inbox? Check your messages hourly? Nope. Start working on your next story idea. Give in to your muse. Ignore your email messages. The publishing business operates at a pace of a glacier. Agents are busy with their established clients. Don’t expect to hear immediate responses. Just keep writing.


It may take a year, maybe two or three or more to get an agent to notice you. Hey, remember it was five years for Debbie Macomber! But while you’re waiting, you’re writing. You’re critiquing. You are becoming a better word slinger. So, when the day comes, and an agent contacts you about your manuscript and wants to talk to you about it on the phone…you are ready!