Tuesday, June 9, 2015

QUERY LETTERS: Why Are They So Dang Hard To Write?


Why is this so hard?! I’ve done this before. I’ve successfully done this before so why am I practically in tears?

Query Letters.

There aren’t very many two-word combinations that strike so much terror to a writer’s heart.

I’m writing a query letter. And dang if query writing isn’t like some great mystery of the universe, some massive puzzle the solution to which is held by very few people in the world. ARGGHH!!

The reason for those arghs is that it seems each agent and editor has her/his own idea of what makes a good query letter. No two agents or editors like the same thing in the same way and in the same format. And from what I’ve recently seen, each agent has different ideas on different days of what makes a stellar query! One of my dream agents has several of her favorite query letters posted on a site, along with her comments on what made each great. I was so thrilled to find this Holy Grail, but then my hopes were completely dashed when I discovered that there was no consistency to what she liked. Argghhh…

My first ever query letter, the successful one, was to editors of small publishers, not agents. And to be perfectly honest that book and those query letters were for practice purposes. I was LEARNING how to write a novel and LEARNING how to write synopses and query letters. That my first effort was a success was surprising to say the least. All but one editor requested either a partial or a full, and all sent glowing rejections, except for the one who offered me a contract.

But agents are a different story, and they are making me very nervous. I believe an author’s chances of making it onto an NBA team are better than landing an agent.

Of course we all have our short list of dream agents, the ones we can only hope to one day have represent us. Which raises the next unanswerable question: Do I send queries to each of them in the first round, or spread it out a bit, mixing them into rounds with second and third tier choices? If the query fails, I want to know it and be able to rewrite it before I’ve sent it to all those first choice agents. Argghh…

Now do you see why those two words are so dreaded among writers?

If you want to further educate yourself (or confuse yourself depending on how you’re feeling about it) on query letter writing there are fortunately many good sources online. I just came across a fabulous post by dream agent Sarah Davies of the dream agency Greenhouse Literary. I like this post because she makes it clear and straightforward—there is little alchemy involved. At the end of this post I’ll give you links to Ms. Davies’ post as well as other useful sites.

Now I really need to get back to writing my query letter. And make sure it reflects the voice of my book. And make sure I include a blurb that makes the agent want to read more. And make sure I have enough biographical info but not too much. And, and, and. Sigh…

I highly recommend each of these sites for useful, helpful information on query writing:

Writer’s Digest—60 examples of successful query letters:  http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

Query Shark:

Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino on Query Letter Writing:

Good luck on your query letter!!

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