When you are first starting to think about submitting your novel to the big bad scary world of agents and publishers it is important to make sure you are well prepared. If being an author is truly a career path or at least more than just a hobby to see your name on a cover then you would never self publish without going through the steps, so it is fair to think you would want to follow the same protocol for submissions as well. Indie authors go through rounds of edits, rewrites, beta reader feedback and of course a few nights of tears curled up on the office floor petting our cats, or whatever comfort animal you may have, before we ever consider publishing.
Agents are no different when it comes to a need for preparation. For me I had the idea that since I had researched the way to right query letters and I knew my story I would be ready to just whip out a quick letter and drop it in the mail. That is exactly what I did. I sent out over thirty queries between snail mail and email and received over twenty rejections back in response. Some I simply did not hear back from. None of those first letter gave me the approval response I was looking for and I was lost as to why. Then one night after my fetal position, feline companion therapy had subsided I began to look over the letter I had sent out.
The first thing I noticed was that while there were no typos in the letter it was also missing some pertinent information. What I had previously considered a "hook" was actually nothing more than a run on sentence with the main characters names. The brief fleshing out was more of a full on synopsis and my personal bio was wordy to fill space since I was unpublished at the time. It was a mess. It didn't even state that the manuscript was completed or what genre it was written in. How could I have not known what I was doing to myself?
If I had taken the time to write out my letter, even before finding the list of agents, I would have been able to analyze it and find the problems ahead of time. For one of my current books that I am putting through the ringer with editing and rewrites I am already working on the letter for when the time comes. It too has gone through a number of drafts fixing parts here and there. As soon as I am satisfied with the book and have a letter I am proud of I will then send them out to find an agent. The reject responses are discouraging but I am determined to be strong enough to handle it. At least this time I will be more prepared and I can stand by the book and the letter more proudly knowing the work that went in to make them professional and acceptable.