56: Imagining the Ideal Query Website
Updated: Sep 26
Howdy! I ran across this (now deleted) reddit post (regarding this Kickstarter which is attempting to solve some common querying issues) and it inspired another long rant regarding how publishing industry reps can make the querying/submissions process more inclusive. In case you missed my rant from 2ish weeks back, I personally find it grating that every agent and every small press has a different set of requirements for a query/submission. I find Querymanager, Submittable, and Duotropes pretty user-friendly but I can see areas for improvement. Agents are always posting on Twitter, asking how to be more inclusive, and streamlining query/submission methods would be a big step in that direction.
By streamlining, I mean, either agents/presses could agree to a set standard for the entire cold query. Like, have all agents require the author's name, bio/credentials, website/blog, social media links, 2-5 comp titles (but agree on which amount and stick to it), potential audience, query letter, synopsis, and an agreed upon standard length for the manuscript excerpt.
Or, alternatively, there could be a website that agents/authors/small-presses all work from. It would have to be very secure, but authors would fill in a page for each manuscript. It would include the whole manuscript and their set answers to a list of standard questions regarding the manuscript. There could be a drop down menu for common trigger warnings that authors could select from. There could be a space for including what about the author's unique background adds to the credibility of their story (BIPOC? LGBT? Neurodiverse? Etc.).
Agents/presses would ~only~ be able to include questions from the preset list, and whatever length requirement they wanted for the excerpt, in their forms. Being able to search for agents or small presses by the age range and genres in their wishlists is useful, though should include a wider range of genres than say, those on AgentQuery.com or duotrope.com/duosuma. Authors would just have to select the agent or small press, and if their genre/word count etc requirements were met by the manuscript page, the site would autopopulate the agent/small press's submission form. So industry reps get whatever length excerpt they want from the overall manuscript, without the author having to save 20 different word files of varying length, or having lists of 2,3, & 5 comps ready.
There would be no presets for irrelevant questions (Who's your favorite superhero? What's the theme song for this? Mood board? Playlist? Etc). Only because, those trigger overthinking and excess stress, in a process that's already tough and time consuming. Every time a writer has to specify something new for a query/submission, it's an opportunity for error and is sure to cause anxiety. Small presses, especially, love including super specific questions that honestly shouldn't matter unless they're already sure they want the manuscript (What's your marketing plan? How many followers do you have? Do you have a TikTok? Does this book ever mention a brand name or celebrity? Etc). Better off just not including most of those as options.
Maybe there could be a section for what kinds of marketing the author is comfortable with, where they could select from a drop down menu of common marketing tactics authors use (blog interviews, podcast interviews, readings at libraries & bookstores, manning a booth at cons, etc...Some people can't be in front of a camera, and some people have difficulties traveling. Not everyone has the same limitations.). Instead of asking writers to come up with a marketing plan, since if they can't expect marketing leadership from the press, why wouldn't they just self publish? At least for fiction writing, small presses expecting the author to come in with a marketing plan, rather than providing one, feels like a red flag.
Some small presses charge submissions fees, especially for contests. There would need to be a means for them to request and writers to pay that. It's not very inclusive to charge writers for submissions but for some small presses, they probably wouldn't be able to offer as many opportunities otherwise.
It would also be super helpful if agents/presses had a bunch of drop down options, to select from, for why they're rejecting a query.
Anyway, this is how I think querying could be improved by the ideal website. I do not make websites so this is just me thinking out loud. If you wanna make it, you have my full encouragement and blessing. Thanks for stopping by. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!
Edit: It has come to my attention that Submittable and Query Manager don't work with the current tool the visually impaired have to use the internet. So, first priority, before of all the other suggestions I listed above, those websites really need to work to accommodate the visually impaired.