Saturday, September 25, 2010

Query Weary

I never thought writing a one page query letter could be more difficult than writing a 350 page novel. In a query, I have one paragraph and three to five sentences to reel the agent into my fictional world. My pitch must be succinct, colorful, and end with a hook that gets the agent’s attention. My dream: once they read my brilliant query, they will want to read the rest of my manuscript. The reality: it is tough out there in the publishing world, and I will probably receive rejections no matter how great my query letter is. After all, rejection is part of a writer’s life.

After researching numerous resources on the internet, it took me about two weeks to complete my query letter. I stared at the blank page, and then wrote stupid sentences and long rambling paragraphs. Finally, I found a template at the Writers Beware blog, and the premise behind this skeleton of a letter began to take shape.

I have heard that pitching your novel is like speed dating—you have three to five minutes to tell a potential significant other about your greatest qualities. You must deliver a vivid picture of your novel in as few words as possible. It is essential to acquire both verbal and written skills in providing an unforgettable snapshot of your novel. You never know when you might run into an agent.

Last night before turning in, I posted my query letter at Absolute Write in Query Letter Hell in the Share Your Work forum. I was surprised this morning to find five or six replies, all of which were thoughtful and honest. The biggest compliment I received was that my query was solid. Someone else could not help me with the query but wanted to read more. Some writers suggested changes, which I incorporated into my final draft.

I have acquired a list of eight agents using Query Tracker. I have checked them all out at Preditors and Editors. I have researched their websites viewed their client lists, and read their blogs. What is the next step?

Tomorrow, I will buy nice off-white stationary with matching envelopes. I will personalize my query for each agent. This next week, I will send out queries to the eight agents. My plan? To keep sending those queries out until I find a reputable agent to represent my work.

If you are in the query process, keep your chin up no matter what. Start working on your next novel.

Happy writing!

8 comments:

Jai Joshi said...

I'm at the same stage you are, Susan, except that I'm writing my synopsis before I send out any queries just in case anyone asks for it.

Good luck with the query process!

Jai

Susan Littlefield said...

Jai,

Good idea you are writing a synopsis, because some agents do ask for that with the query letter. Part of my next step is also making sure I have a synopsis ready to go.

Have you tried agent query tracker? It's free, and an excellent resource.

Vonny said...

I'm finding that writing the query is indeed more difficult than writing the novel. I've been working on mine for over a week now. Still, I think I'm having better luck with it than with the synopsis. I guess it's all part of the process, whether we like it or not.
Hope you find an agent soon, Susan.

Susan Littlefield said...

My novel contains a double plot from three different viewpoints, which was difficult to pull off. When I first started editing, I found the timeline was someone off. Thus, I did a quick outline to get everything back in the order I wanted, and then moved already written chapters around. I think writing my synopsis will be easier than the query, because it's all there in the outline.

Right now, I am doing one more hard edit, then I start querying at the end of the week, or next week. I also want to have my synopsis ready too.

Good luck, Vonny. Keep working at it all.

Debut Author, Lover of Books, AIDS advocate and fuzzy animal lover. said...

Queries are tough!! But you can do it : )

Susan Littlefield said...

Thank you for your encouragement, Suzan! I have completed the query, and plan on sending a batch out this week or next. It's on to synopsis land now.

Kerry Wood said...

Aargh! Your weariness is contagious. Whenever I think about rewriting my self-published memoir or producing something new from all the fragmentary squibs I've written, I get turned off when I think of agents, publishers, synopses and queries. Maybe I'm too old, even though I don't feel limited in terms of energy and I still think and act like a youthful jackass.

(By the way, make sure your stationery is off-white and stationary.Much easier to write on neatly. Excuse my minuscule corection which I'm trying to make sound like a joke.)

Spending a couple of days in Grass Valley. Do I remember that we're not far apart?

Susan Littlefield said...

Kerry,

Thanks for the comment. I have off white stationary with matching envelopes. I am on a roll. I want to keep five to ten queries active at all times. This means, after the one rejection I received today ("Thanks, not for us"), I will get a few more out there.

Grass Valley. Not sure where that is, but I think it's quite a ways away. My area is the north bay in California.

Don't give up on your writing.

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