Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Query Letters: The Bane of a Writer's Existence

 This is me, trying to block out all of my failed query letters. Okay, no it's not. It's just a weird(ish) picture of me.

Freaking Query Letters

Oh, the dreaded query letter. I hate them, I really do. I didn’t used to, but there is just so much riding on your query letter. So, what can I say? The pressure got to me.

I have had approximately fifty different query letters for my MG Fantasy. I’m not even sure I’m exaggerating. This last week, after I started another massive overhaul of my manuscript, I also started a new query letter so I could emphasize the new direction of the manuscript.

There are a lot of sites out there with query letter tips. This one tells you that the three basic parts to a query letter are the hook, the synopsis, and the writer’s bio. I think that can be helpful, as far as it goes, but by now I’ve read a lot of successful query letters, and it seems to me that the structure is much more flexible than that. So, here are my main tips:

  • Don’t scare the agent. Keep it professional!
  • Convey the voice of your book. Your writing has to be a selling point of this book. Show them what you’ve got.
  • Make the stakes clear. What does the main character stand to gain and/or loose?
  • Read a lot of successful query letters. And unsuccessful ones too. Agent Janet Reid’s Query Shark is great for that.

And on this topic, one can never go wrong looking for  a few other helpful hints, so here are some other great links:

I just recently re-wrote my query letter, and this post helped me focus in on what I really needed and what I could discard. The illustrious Query Shark referred me to the post, for which I am forever grateful.

This was a pretty neat list of successful queries in a variety of genres. And here are a few more helpful query letter Dos and Don’ts from Writer’s Digest.

I am personally a huge fan of agent-turned-author Nathan Bransford and his blog. This is a post he did on writing query letters with a ton of links to other helpful posts of his.

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