Someone, forgive me, I did not remember where I saw the question, asked me what I was talking about when I said ‘test queries’. Fair question.
I found the idea in a video by Alexa Donne. She has a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/AlexaDonne) and has a huge collection of videos that range from the fun to the functional. Among those videos is a group devoted to querying.
And, seeing as how my last time in the trenches resulted in trench foot, trench mouth* and nothing else – I thought it was well worth my time to LEARN MORE.
(* Not really, but you get the idea.)
The entire premise Ms. Donne puts forward is that you should be smart about your querying. Well, of course. But then she goes on to tell you how to BE smart. And one of the ideas she conveyed was the need for test queries.
So, what is a test query?
A test query is a query that you send out to an agent, not your most wanted pick, to see if anyone is biting. To keep the fishing metaphor going, is your query the right kind of bait. Does it work to bring in those requests for more?
Well, dang. I hadn’t even thought to test how well my query worked the first time round. In the immortal word of Homer Simpson, d’oh.
The purpose is to see if your query letter, your pages, and any other associated materials result in requests for more. The how goes like this…
In your research (agent research) find out how long each agent takes on average to reply to a cold query. Do they take a month? Six months? Or are they a quick turnaround?
And here is where the title becomes apparent. You’re looking for the speedy folks. Why? Well, testing to see if your query works should be complete – before you send out the bulk of your queries. And if you have to wait three months before you know, then, well, I guess you can, if you like waiting. But the point of these first FEW queries is to get a litmus test of how well your query package works.
FEW. What’s a few? A few can be as little as one or up to four. The hope is that your stunning query will elicit responses from agents and requests for more pages or even a full manuscript. YAY!
A good result, and the number Ms. Donne recommends, is 30%. That is roughly one in three queries results in a request for more. That’s why I chose to have four good solid matches, who all reply within 1-2 weeks in my first ‘test group.’ It’s a small enough group that IF I need to do this again after some fine tuning I can find another four agents who will be a good solid match for my work, and who are quick on the turnaround time.
So, I’m hoping for one in four, or better yet two in four, requests. So far – batch 1 is four requests out, and one rejection back.
But what if you don’t get any requests?
Then it is time to take a good long look at WHAT you are sending and WHO you are sending to.
Go back to basics. Is your query letter professional? Grammatically correct? No typos or misspelled words? Look over your writing sample for the same issues. And give a look at who you are querying. Are the agents you have chosen to query a good fit for your work?
I goofed majorly on my first round and didn’t send my strongest first five pages. Cue Homer. D’oh. So, I am taking advantage of having a second group of solid possible agents to query. (Don’t be me, check and double check.)
So that’s a summary.
Best of luck and Happy Hunting.