Thursday, July 30, 2009

Writing the Query Letter - Key Point #1

As promised, we're going to do a series of posts on writing the query letter, including examples of query's that worked. Eventually, I'll post my query as well and we can dissect it together.

To start with, there are tons of references on how to write a query, and I've read them all, but it never really seems to make it easier to write one. The problem is effectively summarizing the hook of your story, making it eye catching, without being overly flamboyant or non-professional. In fact, that word professional, is the key in writing your query. The agent wants to know that you are a serious writer, understand professional demands, and can adhere to them. We've all heard of the queries written on pink paper or with cursive font because the author wanted to "stand out." Unfortunately, those tricks will make the author stand out . . . in a bad way!

Key #1: Be professional at all times.

This excerpt comes from the Guide to Literary Agents Blog.


"The first thing to think about when you sit down to write a query letter is that, in a lot of ways, it’s similar to writing a cover letter for a job application. You’re addressing your letter to a person who’s never met you before, and who sorts through hundreds of such letters a day. This crucial first contact is your chance to demonstrate that you’re smart, professional, and interesting. The way to convey those traits is through the tone and content of your letter. The tone should be professional, specific and engaging—never general, overly familiar or abrasive. Make sure your letter is well written and grammatically correct. And make sure to include all of your contact information, including your mailing address, phone number and e-mail address.

"These suggestions may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many letters I get that leave out vital contact information, start out with 'Hi Mollie—' instead of 'Dear Ms. Glick:', or include unprofessional phrases such as, 'You’ll probably just throw this letter out like the other agents have.' Occasionally, I get a letter written in a lighter, more humorous tone, and that’s OK—as long as the letter reflects the kind of book the author is querying me about (i.e., a humorous nonfiction book or funny novel) and it still includes all the information I need to know. But if in doubt, stick with a professional tone, and include a one- or two-line quote from the book to give the agent a taste of its voice.

"Like a cover letter, your query letter should be no longer than a page. It should include your contact information, a salutation, a paragraph describing your book, and a paragraph explaining why you’re the perfect person to write that book. Lets take a closer look at each of these components."

- Excerpted from the article "Write a Killer Query Letter: How to Hook an Agent," by Mollie Glick, in the 2010 Guide to Literary Agents.

More coming as we examine this in depth. Having written several queries, some that worked, many that didn't, we'll look at my letters and examine for strengths and weaknesses.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yup, You Knew One Day It Would Happen, I'm Back

Gotta admit, it's been so long since I logged on that I almost forgot my password. Two months, my how time flies.

I'd like to thank all of you who continue to support this blog. Your comments mean a lot to me.

So, why's it been so long since my last post?

Two reasons really. First, my writing has been on hold because the Ripple has been sucking away all my time. It's stunning how fast things have grown over there. Wonderful fun, yes, but a massive time sink. I'm going to have to do some major time budgeting between writing and rippling once I start on the next novel.

And secondly, in truth, I haven't had much to write about. My original idea for this blog was to use my experience revising, querying, selling, publishing my novel as a way to pass on tips that I'm learning to you. My thought was that maybe my experience could help you along the path with your own writing. Also, I wanted to share that experience so we all could be there together, learning the joys, pains, tribulations of this darned difficult path we've chosen.

Along those lines, I hadn't had much to write about. Once I finished the revision and went through the Ten Point Revision Strategy, not much was happening. A long time was spent searching for the right agent.

But now I have news to report. Deadly Vision is being handled by a great agency that seems very excited to work with it. Even better, they hired an independent outside editor to read the book and review it. I suspect they did this before they agreed to handle it, to get another opinion. I don't know if this is a common practice with agents, to hire outside editors as another opinion, but it's an interesting concept.

Anyways, the editor read the novel and . . . loved it. Actually called the book the work of the next "new and improved Michael Crichton." With that the novel has been sent to publishers and we'll see what happens.

If you all would like, I'll post that first review of the novel. It's an interesting concept, being reviewed before the book is sold, as an agent's guide and agent marketing tool.

So now I've got lots to write about, as the book moves through the publishing channels.

In the meantime, let's get back to queries. These seem to be the bane of most writers, including myself. My next several posts will be about how to write an effective query letter. I've got some great references to share, and we'll post actual successful query letters so you can see what works and what doesn't. I'll even post my query which resulted in my novel being read by several agencies and eventually landing me with my agent.

Stay tuned. I'll be back.