Querying and editing again – oh my!

It’s been almost two months since I declared my novel finished, and I still haven’t sent out one query letter. That is not to say I haven’t been working up to it, but it’s been a long process.

I’ve been googling small presses – ones that specialize in feminist books, and so far I found only one that might work. I’ve also been studying how to write a query letter.

To that end I found a short book called, Literary Agent Secrets Revealed: Create the Perfect, Unrejectable Query Letter, and it has been quite helpful. It’s main advice is that the letter should have two main sections – a two-paragraph novel synopsis and an author biography. And no matter what, the letter should be no longer than one page. Sounds simple, right? Not so simple I found out.

Here’s a few other hints:

  • In the synopsis, introduce your main characters, lay out the main plot points , and make your writing exciting and engaging
  • Create a one-paragraph author biography that only contains relevant information to sell yourself to a press or agent. For example, I took out stuff about my published poetry in this paragraph since I’m trying to sell a novel, not poetry.

But the main problem with this book is that it doesn’t give any examples. Although it did say to look at the back covers of best-selling novels to see examples . I did that and then googled again and found a treasure trove of query letter examples – all from the Writer’s Digest blog, Guide to Literary Agents.

And voila! I now have what I consider a pretty-good query letter.

The next step is to send it out. That also caused a bottleneck. The small press I’m targeting has put together great guidelines, which I tend to follow exactly.  Its guidelines say they will not consider a novel over 100,000 words. Guess what? My novel is a bit over at 100,136 words. And in my mind that won’t do. From working on proposals for government contracts in the aerospace business for over thirty years, I found trying to fudge a bit on the guidelines will not produce a winning proposal.

So this morning I sat down with the final draft of my novel and started to whittle away – line by line and word by word. I’m in the middle of chapter two and have lowered the word count a whopping 168 words. I’ve managed to overachieve a bit. and now I wonder should I do some more. I hate to say that, but maybe the whole novel needs one more final edit – yet again.

What do you think, dear readers? Should I stop here or keep editing? After all I only have a little over 99,000 words to go.


  1. Marilyn,
    The thing I always liked about proposals was that there were both submission requirements and a deadline. Unfortunately, you are missing a deadline in this process. The text can always be improved. But sometimes you just have to let it go. I say this having never published a book. But I have worked on proposals with you, and I can hear you giving me advice, ok direction, like this. Whatever happens, good luck.
    Bob Z –
    P.S.I am sure you will find punctuation mistakes in this.

  2. Be wary of word count tips. An interested agent told me that I had to get my 100,000+ word book down to 80,000 words; then he said, “Not for me, not now.” I ended up with three versions with three different word counts and sold the middle version to a hybrid publisher without an agent.

  3. Thanks so much for your post, since I am at almost the same place as you are, but I now need to write a query letter and research publishers.
    Since you asked for my advice… Since you’ve now conscientiously complied with the publisher’s guidelines, I would send out the manuscript.
    Good luck!

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