Writing Tips

4 Ways to Prepare for Querying Literary Agents

Even before drafting those query letters, synopses, and book proposals, there are several important ways to prepare for pursuing traditional publishing. While you are still editing your manuscript, take a little bit of time out of each day to prepare for querying literary agents and publishers, and the process of chasing down someone to publish your book will go much smoother when you are ready.

If you have just begun thinking about traditional publishing or if you researching literary agents in general, check out this fantastic and thorough blog post by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: How to Find a (Real) Literary Agents. This article provides information on the function of literary agents, how to find the right one, and how to query or submit to them.

So if you want to be traditionally published, here are four simple ways to prepare before you start querying

4 Ways to Prepare for Querying Literary Agents

1. Make a list of 3 to 5 literary agents or publishers

Preferably before you start your last round of edits, figure out who your top picks for literary agents or publishers are. If you want to query a publisher, make sure that they accept unsolicited submissions. This means that you do not need to have a literary agent to submit. Most big publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so if that is the case for one of your top picks, then focus on finding an agent instead. Also make sure that the agent or publisher represents your genre!

Tip: There are lots of ways to find literary agents and publishers. Try reading through the acknowledgement section of books in your genre or use a search engine specific such as AgentQuery or QueryTracker. Check out of the link from SFWA for more ideas.

2. Follow them on Facebook or other social media

Following agents and publishers on Facebook and Twitter allows you to casually get to know them and their preferences better. Many post tips and hints about the stories and queries that they like best. All post about the books they are currently working on (see tip 4 for why this is important to you). And to a certain extent, social media allows you to get to know the agents personally. Personality does matter when choosing an agent. You will not only be working with them as business partners, but since writing is very personal, you need to find someone who will really love your genre, premise, and style.

Tip: Don’t be a stalker! Go ahead and comment on posts that truly excite you, but don’t comment or like constantly– especially for a short period of time (aka a week or two before you query them). Ask yourself if you are commenting just to get their attention or check off a box. Especially for a teen author, an obsessive presence can come across as immature and desperate.

3. Follow their blogs

This is even more important than Facebook. All of the agents on my list post writing tips and– even more importantly– publishing and querying tips on their blog. What is a better way to impress them with your manuscript or novel than by knowing exactly what they like?

Tip: Also consider following their published authors’ blogs. You will find fewer publishing tips on these, but you can learn more about the types of personalities and books that they represent.

4. Read several of their books

Do a little bit of research (once you have found their blog or website, it is not hard) to find a list of the books that the agent has represented or the publisher has published. Pick a couple books that are in your genre and published in the past year or two (the recenter, the better) and read them. If you find yourself underwhelmed, considering looking for a new agent or publisher, but if you genuinely become a fan, don’t hesitated to let the author know and comment on the author’s blog.

Tip: Reading books previously published by the agent or publisher that you are querying is a great way to impress them, but don’t over exaggerate and be honest about what you liked or even disliked. Also most query letters include several comparative titles, these books make great comparative titles since they show the agent/publisher that your book is similar to what they like to represent. However, make sure you compare in meaningful ways that show you have read the book or else this can come off as a cheap trick from someone who doesn’t actually like or has even read their books.

By taking these simple steps before you start querying, you can make the querying process much smooth once you start. If you already know what agents you want to query and their preferences, you have a huge advantage while editing your story, and when it comes time to query, you will already know what to do rather than panicking and researching last minute.

Are any of you guys seeking traditional publishing? Would you like to see more posts like this in the future? Now that I am more focused on traditional publishing; I’d be happy to share what I am learning.

God bless,


Guest Post

Writing Fantasy that Rings True

Guest post by Hannah Shoop

So you’re writing a story with dragons and elves. Maybe you’ve even invented a race or two. You’ve figured out the rules of magic and developed a detailed world, complete with maps and sketches of your characters.

But how do you convince your readers to stick around? How you do grab their interest and make them hang on for dear life until they’ve read the last page of your novel?

Well, the first step is by making your writing believable.

Realistic fiction and fiction that is believable are not the same thing. Neither are fantasy and believability an oxymoron. While orcs and hobbits are products of Tolkien’s imagination, when we enter Middle Earth, we believed them. No one had every heard of Aslan, but when C.S. Lewis sent him roaring through our imaginations, we stood in awe with Lucy and maybe even shook with fright with Trumpkin. Though these characters share little resemblance to anything we know in our world, somehow their substance connects with something deep inside of us. These fantasy stories—with all their fantastical elements—ring true.

Writing Fantasy that Rings True

So how does a fantasy author do it? Here are a few tips.

  1. Give your characters real emotions. Though we may never have met a three-foot being with hairy feet that lived in a hole in the ground, we can relate to the desire to be safe and comfortable. We can understand the feeling of stepping outside one’s comfort zone and the fear that comes with it. Whether you’re writing about a human or a creature of your own invention, make sure your character experiences basic human emotions. Even stories that are told from a non-human’s perspective like Black Beauty and Saphira’s portions of Eragon still rumble with human emotions—loyalty, fear, confusion, and contentment. For readers to connect with your characters, your character must feel these things.
  2. Ground your stories on truth. Your characters may not be quoting scripture, but you can still frame your story inside a biblical worldview. Take the parables of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20) for example. It includes believable reactions from men who thought they were being short changed, and it also shows the grace of the master. Or, think about Bible stories that move you; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s audacious courage in the face of an arrogant ruler, Jesus’ surprising mercy to the woman caught in adultery, Judas’s painful betrayal with a kiss. Then, think about larger themes found in scripture: good triumphing over evil, sacrificial love, forgiveness that baffles the brain. Your readers will be moved by these things because that is how God made the human heart.
  3. Get help. If you want your stories to outlast you, they must be bigger than your imagination. Timeless truth must be woven in them, for truth is reality. Know the scripture, for that is what will endure to the end (Matthew 24:35). Ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply it to your writing because he is the one who guides us into truth (John 16:13). Then show your work to trusted readers, and ask them if your writing rings true.

Fantasy’s merit are not restricted to the fact that it help us escape reality, but that it helps us understand reality.

So write on, and may your writing ring true because it is steeped in Truth.


About the Author: Hannah Shoop is a lover of fantasy and other good stories, and she is currently working on a fantasy trilogy. On her blog, hannahshoop.wordpress.com, she posts her poems and writes about her faith. When she is not writing, she loves to read, play the piano, have good conversations over a cup of tea, and take walks. She sees her life as a great adventure through the world with her Savior and cannot wait to see what He has planned next for her.


Summer Reading List: 2017

This is not my usual Monday blog post, but I thought I would take a break from writing tips to share my summer reading plans. I am being a bit ambitious this summer, especially with my editing plans and full time job; however, I hope to finish most of these books, even though I have a total of 15-21 book goal. I have enough books on my reading this this summer that I decided to categorize them into writing research and classic/literary fiction. Ready?

My writing research centers around the question, “What does good Christian fantasy look like and how do I write it?” Pretty simple. So I am reading a good number of essays on Christian fiction in general and also on Christian fantasy. I am also reading two authors that I want to draw from for my own writing: Flannery O’Connor and George MacDonald. Finally, I am reading some Christian fantasy that has been published within the last two years by one of the publishing companies that I hope to query this fall.


Technically, I have already finished two of these books: Phantastes and King’s Blood, but I listed them here anyways since they were part of my early summer reading. Both were phantastic in different ways; I would recommend MacDonald to any reader who loves fairy stories and wants some beautiful and mature themes, and Jill Williamson’s series, Kinsman Chronicles, is the model of Christian epic fantasy for the college age group. The second part of this lists are books that I would love to get to but are lower priorities than the others.

The purpose of my second reading list is to spark conversation and explore some classics. My next door neighbor and I will be reading through these together, and so I hope to have some great conversations with her. Since she has great handwriting, I’ll use her note and put links below.

I may see if I can talk her out of A Tale of Two Cities and A Midsummer’s Night Dream— not because I don’t think they will be good (I actually have some limited experience with both and still hope to read them fully someday)– but because I want to prioritize some of my writing reading, and I may add a book on modern Israel.

So I am extremely excited about reading all these good books (even despite the fact that I have to barrow many of them from the library), but what are you guys planning on reading this summer? Have you read any of these books before? What did you think of them?

God bless,


Note: As of next Monday, I not have access to internet for about two weeks. I will still have scheduled posts on Monday (and maybe a guest post– we will see), but I will not be posting Open Pen Critique or be able to reply to comments until I return. When I do return, stay tuned for a special post about a topic that is very important to me but I have yet to write about on this blog 🙂