Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I've learned from querying

So you did it, you wrote a novel. Congratulations, that is a big deal. Most people dream of writing a novel but very few actually do, and you’re in that club.

I bet you thought the hard part was over, then you found out about query letters. At least, that’s how it happened for me. As a new writer, with zero contacts or friends within the industry, I constructed my very first query letter. Not exactly certain what I was doing, I took some advice from a trusted friend (who never worked in the publishing industry, doesn’t know any writers, and doesn’t even enjoy reading). He said, and I quote, “Just send it to everyone.”

DO NOT just send it to everyone, because chances are your very first query letter sucks. I know that’s horrible, I’m a horrible person. Of course your query letter is awesome, you wrote it and how can anything you penned ever fail. However, unfortunately, you’re not writing to yourself. You’re writing to top of their class, ivy-league, college graduates and they get 50+ query letters a day. If they see one comma out of place, they’re getting tuning off. Multiple grammar errors and it’s a pass. They haven’t even gotten to the guts of your pitch, and they never will.

Well now, you might be thinking ‘That’s messed up!’ but in truth, it’s just the business (and although writing is an art form, it is still a business). Not only are you competing with the hundreds of other querying writers, but you’re also fighting against their current clients.

So what’s an emerging writer to do you ask. I’m no expert, far from it in fact, but my best advice (based on my own blunders) is to test the waters. Limit yourself to around ten queries per query letter. If you’re not getting any hits, chances are the letter is flawed in some way.

Play with your pitch. You want to make sure you are conveying the right information for your genre. If your book is a romance, focus on the steamy elements. If you've got a thriller make the query more tense. Twitter can be a great source of feedback. You can find many writers under the #amwriting #amediting #amquerying hashtags who are eager to swap queries and give valuable insight.

In short, take it slow and research, research, research because once you’ve burned through your sacred lists of agents, it’s gone forever. At least until next script.  

Good luck fellow writers and remember, slow and steady wins the race!

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