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FREE Querying Resources

Updated: Jan 9

Querying is hard, but it doesn't need to feel impossible. When I started querying, I was terrified because I didn't know where to start. I knew I needed help, but online resources seemed scarce, and many of them were old and therefore no longer accurate. Even now, I am by no means a querying expert, but—once I managed to find them—all these resources helped me, so I hope they ease the process for others.


If you've already been querying for a while, some of these resources might seem obvious, but when I started querying I was as clueless as they come, so I've been as thorough as possible. I'll be keeping this list updated, so if you know of any resources not listed or if you know one of the resources listed has gone out of date, please comment below or contact me elsewhere and I'll add or remove it accordingly.


All these resources are free (though some have paid versions, which I will mention), and you can access all of them from the comfort of your own home—no conferences required!


A open book floating in the center of a circle of books surrounded by bookshelves
Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

1. HOW DO I WRITE A QUERY?


Some of Eric's clients have allowed him to post their successful query letters on his website, and Eric explains why each query worked for him. He links out to a number of additional resources as well.


I've linked out to my own HIGMA post, as in the opening paragraph I list a number of other posts to read, but that's just a starting point. To find many, many other HIGMA posts, I recommend finding an author on Twitter and scrolling through their "following" tab. When you find an agented author, click their profile, then click the link to their website, where they'll likely have a HIGMA post. You can repeat this process to find as many HIGMA posts as you want. If social media isn't your thing, don't worry. You don't need to be active on Twitter to do this. Just make an account, find the blogs, and give the authors some extra hits. If they have newsletters, sign up for those!


Hali breaks down what each aspect of a query letter is and how to write them, then she addresses common query mistakes. It's thorough, funny, and down to Earth, and she provides examples. My querying self would have gone to war for something like this.


Here, authors post drafts of their queries to receive critiques, and they ask questions about the Publishing industry. I've never utilized this resource myself, but I know authors who have, and they've found it helpful. Isabelle Martinson is one of these authors, so for more information I recommend reading her HIGMA post.


BookEnds has loads of videos about querying, from what agents look for in queries to what agents look for in authors. I didn't know about this resource before I started querying, but I know authors who did, and they say it was a lifesaver. These videos discuss many other Publishing topics as well, so peruse to your heart's content.


Author Bianca Marais and literary agents Carly Watters and Cecilia Lyra host a weekly podcast where they interview authors, agents, editors, and other Publishing professionals. Each episode, they critique four queries and four sets of first five pages. (Special thanks to author Rachel Kitch for sharing this resource!)


Beta Readers

Beta readers (or "betas") are other authors who provide feedback on your query before you send it to agents. Obviously, you don't need to take every piece of feedback you receive, but especially if you aren't familiar with querying norms, it's nice to have other sets of eyes on your query before sending it into cyberspace. If you don't know any other authors in real life, you can find beta readers on the PubTips Reddit page or the Twitter #writingtwt community (for more information on Twitter, scroll down to section 3).


Family and Friends

Having non-authors like your family and friends read your query is helpful because it tells you how the query comes across to those who are totally outside the Publishing industry. When betas read your query, they can tell you if you if you've followed industry standards, but when non-authors read your query, they can tell you if the book sounds good. Authors can do this too, of course, but I think having a mix of authors and non-authors arms you with multiple types of feedback...and when you're going into the Querying Trenches, you want as many weapons as possible.


2. HOW DO I RESEARCH LITERARY AGENTS?


This is a database of agents and editors. By choosing different keywords, you can search for agents who represent your genre. Agents generally provide a few paragraphs explaining their favorite writing styles, tropes, plots, etc., but even if an MSWL doesn't perfectly match your book, if the agent is open to your genre there's no harm in sending them a query. Many agents will even mention in their MSWL paragraphs that sometimes they don't know exactly what they want until they see it. Don't self-select out.


This is another agent database, but QT allows you to track your queries once you send them. This is free, but QT also offers a Premium membership, which allows you to view an agent's "query timeline". Here, you can see where your query sits in their queue, how often they request manuscripts in your genre, and how long it generally takes them to reply to queries. QT Premium is $25 per year, which to me felt like a lot, but knowing where my query was in an agent's lineup greatly reduced my anxiety.


This is yet another agent database. By googling "[agent's name] Publisher's Marketplace", you can generally find their PM page, which will reveal their MSWL, some of their clients, and their most recent sales. This is free, but to view an agent's entire sales record (meaning, how often they sell manuscripts in your genre, where they sell those manuscripts to, and how much they sell those manuscripts for), you can purchase a membership for $25 per month. Personally, I couldn't (and can't) afford this, but I know some authors who maintain one membership as a group to lower the cost.


This is a website sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) that provides information on publishing scams, fake literary agents, contract dangers, and much more. If you receive correspondence from an agent or publisher that seems questionable, you can search this site for that individual or company. If nothing comes up, you can email them with questions, comments, and documentation. Your name, along with any other identifying information, will of course be kept private.


3. HOW DO I MAKE INDUSTRY CONNECTIONS?


In my experience, Twitter is the online equivalent of attending a writing conference. To build connections, you can create an account, then find just one author, agent, or editor you already know you love. Click their "followers" tab, then scroll, follow anyone you want, and start interacting with their tweets. I was scared to do this, but it's actually really fun! If you support others, others will follow you back and support you. Eventually, a pitch event will roll around, and you'll already have a community of authors happy to help craft, revise, and support your pitches—as long as you do the same for them. Friendship has to go both ways!


*This is the only online resource I know of that reliably helps authors form industry connections, but I also know that social media (and Twitter in particular) isn't for everyone, so if you know of another site that helps with networking, I am humbly begging you to comment it below or inform me of it elsewhere.


4. HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?


Literary agents Laura Zats and Erik Hane of Headwater Literary Management host this (almost) weekly podcast "to have the conversations surrounding the book and writing industries that too often are glossed over by conventional wisdom, institutional optimism, and false seriousness". The episodes are enjoyable, down to Earth, and generally an hour long, so it's a great way to get information straight from the horse's mouth.


This is a succinct list that defines common Publishing industry terms. Many resources will throw these terms around assuming readers already know what they mean, so if you're brand new to the Publishing world it'll help you get your bearings.


On her website Sunyi chronicles her publishing journey, from querying to being on submission to editors to landing a book deal. This is just one experience, but it sheds some light on the entire publishing process. Even though my own publishing journey might look very different, seeing Sunyi's entire process helped decrease my anxiety.


Authors Raquel Valldeperas and Kelly Escobar host this podcast where they discuss all things writing-related, from querying to revising to self-care. Each episode is roughly an hour long, and many of them feature special guests. Both hosts are funny and charming, and Raquel's debut novel comes out in 2025, so while you're listening to the podcast, go check it out!


Author Cassidy Jackson hosts this podcast dedicated to promoting Gen-Z authors. Each episode, she has an organic, friendly conversation with a fellow young author in which they discuss the nature of being a Gen-Z individual in Publishing. Episodes vary in length and feature authors at all stages in their careers.


In this article, CouponFollow's Founder and CEO Marc Mezzacca compiles a long list of resources for budding novelists, poets, and other writers. Among other resources, he shares querying information, editing options, and book proposal how-to's. The writing world can feel overwhelming, especially at first, but familiarizing yourself with lists like this can help you find out where to start. (Special thanks to Emma of the Bay Minette Girl Scout Troop for sharing this resource!)


This article breaks down the basics of writing scripts, whether they be for stage or screen. My list of resources is largely dedicated to book writing, but in this golden age of mixed media storytelling, it can be useful for authors to have an understanding of writing in many forms. This article is a nice place to start, as on top of the script-writing breakdown, it links out to a number of further resources. Some of these links are no longer viable, but the pdfs of script examples are, and when learning how to write in a new format I always find examples helpful. (Special thanks to Anna from Fuller's Library for sharing this resource!)


All right folks, that's all the resources I have for now. Like I said, if you know of any other resources or know that some of these resources are no longer viable, please comment below or contact me elsewhere. The entire publishing process is brutal, so in the meantime wish me luck—the good kind, as always—and I wish the same for you.


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