Category Archives: Query Letters

The Query Quandary

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There are a thousand websites, seminars, books and blogs about how to get published. How to identify the best agents to represent your work. How to write a great query letter. How to find a great editor. How to self-publish. How to do your own promotions. Frankly, it’s a little overwhelming.

The arduous journey to publication typically starts with finding an agent. You do this by identifying those agents who are seeking new clients and also represent your genre. Your agent should be 1) experienced and well connected, 2) really passionate about your book. This I know from reading numerous articles and writing blogs.

Another thing I’ve learned from articles and blogs is the basic structure of a query letter. The query is essentially a cover letter. In this one-page marketing piece, you endeavor to hook the agent with a 2 or 3-paragraph description (think book jacket but with spoilers) of your story, the reason why you think your work may be a good fit for him or her, and a brief bio. Easy peasy, right?

Nope. I’ve been struggling to write my query letter for over a month now.

The irony is that this essentially what I do for a living. In my marketing job, I write a lot of cover letters summarizing precisely why my company is best suited to work with that client.  Last Spring, I gave a presentation on how to write winning cover letters to over 100 of my fellow marketers.

The difference? A) While I believe in my company and the work they do, it’s not personal. Selling someone else is always easier. B) I spent four years writing a 95,000-word novel and now I have to sum it up in fewer than 500? C) It’s hard to write a letter that essentially says Please love my book! I poured my heart and soul into it for years! without feeling a little pathetic.

But I will keep at it. And in the meantime, perhaps I just need to read more book jackets for inspiration.

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Big Night

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Ten weeks after I submitted the entire fourth draft of my novel to my writers’ group, my big night finally came: the group critique.

In the weeks leading up to it, one member of my group kept asking me if I was “ready for my Big Night”. The truth was that I hadn’t given it much thought. Most of the group has already read an earlier draft (albeit piecemeal over the span of more than a year), and I’ve incorporated much of their feedback into this latest version, so I was feeling pretty confident in its marked improvement. But Gary’s repeated questioning made me wonder if I shouldn’t worry. After all, he’s been through the group critique before. Maybe he knew something I didn’t.

I approached the meeting with some trepidation but resisted the urge to have a stiff drink beforehand. The booze would calm my nerves, but it would also dull my senses and I wanted to make sure I recorded down each and every even slightly relevant comment.

I needn’t have worried. While each member had a number of recommended tweaks and clarifications, overall the group feedback was very positive. As one member, Jeremy, put it: “Aside from all of my little comments and suggestions, I think you should start sending this manuscript out to agents starting tomorrow.”

This is a major milestone in the lifespan of all novels: it’s ready for the query process. This is also one of the most terrifying milestones in the lifespan of a novel. Now I must leave the safety of my writers’ group and my beta readers to subject myself to a whole new level of rejection. No longer can I waffle on about “family and relationships and stuff” when someone asks me what my book is about. I no longer have an excuse to avoid the dreaded query letter – the longest one page masterpiece a writer will ever write.

Next Time: The Query Quandary

 

 

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