If you are pursuing traditional publication, then you are probably familiar with the tedious task of querying. One of the things that bothers me most when querying is the lack of an industry standard regarding sample materials. Some agents want five pages, some five chapters, some 5000 words.
I don’t begrudge agents the right to ask for the amount of material they need to make an informed decision on a piece of writing, but it does get annoying to have to put together queries for agents following these varying guidelines.
Perhaps my least-favorite task is copying sample pages out of my completed manuscript and pasting them into queries. I have to highlight the correct number of pages, copy, and paste. For some reason, it always takes about thirty seconds for the pasted material to appear, slowing down my workflow. Inevitably, I’ve lost some of the formatting, so there’s adding in and taking out lines until the sample looks reasonable before I can finally send my query.
Over the past few months of querying, I’ve tried out a few different methods to make this process easier. I saved Word documents with varying amounts of the manuscript so I could just copy the whole document and paste it. Unfortunately, this required me to open up a bunch of documents when putting together queries. I also tried this in google docs, which was a little better, but not much.
Sending out my most recent round of queries, I tried something new. Gmail Templates.
What are Gmail Templates?
Gmail Templates are saved bits of text or formatting that you can enter into your emails. They serve two main purposes:
- Creating an easy way to save and share formatting for things like newsletters and invitations. Check out the chrome add-on for more info on using them in this way.
- Creating reusable blocks of text such as signatures, form responses etc. This is what I was interested in as a querying writer, and what I’ll discuss below.
How to get Gmail Templates
If you are using Inbox, then templates are already active, but if you don’t know what they are, you might pass right over them. When you’re composing an email, on the bottom right of the mail is a little icon that looks like a piece of paper. If that isn’t there, you’ll have to click on the menu arrow “show more formatting options” to see it.
You can also create and manage templates through your settings:
If you’re not using Inbox, you will have to enable “canned responses” on your gmail account, following these steps.
How do Gmail Templates help you query?
As you can see above, I’ve started making templates for each of the different things that an agent might ask for in the query. When I’m ready to create a query, I mix and match the pieces to put together the query with the right number of sample pages and/or a synopsis.
The great thing about this is that it’s fast. With a couple of clicks, everything is added in and correctly formatted. No waiting with copy/pasting, no changing formatting. It’s super quick.
Some Tips If You’re Using Gmail Templates to Query
- Agents love a personalized query with not only a name but also a brief reason why you’re querying them. This still needs to be written separately for each agent for best results.
- When you update/edit your MS, make sure you go in and update your templates, otherwise you’ll be sending out old samples!
- Check if some templates can be used for multiple things and label them as such. For example, your first chapter is ten pages long or your first twenty-five pages is three chapters. This keeps things neat and organized.
You’re so behind the times, I’ve been doing this forever!
Good for you! It’s awesome and saves me such a headache. Why didn’t you tell me about it!?!
Granted, there’s a lot more that goes into querying, but if you use gmail, maybe check out templates and see if they can save you a little stress.