Monday, June 27, 2011

Time for that Query

Query letters.

Raise your hand if you have been there:
You have written your novel.  Slaved over the editing.  Loved it.  Hated it.
Now you sit and realize: It is time to query.

Your stomach twists.  Your mind goes blank.  Everything you thought you knew disappears and you are now only filled with butterflies and the sudden thirst for extreme caffeine.  Not to mention you inexplicably became deathly afraid of every agent in existence.

(Ok, please, tell me I am not the only one.)

I have now, finally, reached the point where I need to perfect my query and *gulp* send it out.  Granted, I could just op out and self-publish via CreateSpace.  No queries, no rejections, right?  Yet something inside keeps telling me that if I never do this, if I never dive in and face this path, I will never feel like a true author.

And so, I dive away.

Lately I have been researching queries.  Thing is, everywhere you look seems to have slightly different advice.  Different opinions.  Different tips.  There are so many sites, so many books, jam-packed full of the query how-to.  So, what is the right query to write?

YA Fantasy Guide made, what I thought, a helpful post.  They laid out a few key questions, and say if you answer those, you should be good to go.  The questions?:

•  Who is the story about?
•  What happens to this character?
•  What decisions does this character have to make?
•  What are the consequences of those decisions?
Alright... let's say you answer those.  What is next?

You still have all the other paragraphs to fill in.  And some agencies require their queries to be laid out a bit different than the norm...  (Remember: Read what the agent wants!  Research people, research!)  Still, through all of my researching, I have found that there is a standard layout that most queries go by.  The layout?:

     - 1st Paragraph: The catch about your book.  100-250 words, summarizing your novel and (hopefully) grabbing that agents much desired attention.  Don't forget to list the title, genre, and word count!

     - 2nd Paragraph:  About you.  This is where you share your bio blurb.  Brag about an writing awards or publications you have snagged.  Let them know who you are.

     - 3rd Paragraph:  Flatter that agent.  Maybe share why you have chosen to query them.  Let them know if you are querying other agents at all.  Thank them.

     - And of course, always list your contact info.

Phew.  Just when we thought the writing was over with and it was clear sailing to the published world, Mr. Query makes his appearance.  We find now that we must slave over this query, our one absolute shot to grabbing that agent we crave, and moving forward.

I.  Am.  Nervous.
There, I said it.  Rejection is a major part of the book world.  Rejection by agents.  Rejection by publishers.  Rejection by our readers...  We need to grow tough skins, to just dive in and stop balking and see what the world brings us.  I know, much easier to say than do.

So, off I go to work on my query as I round the last corner on my final polishing round.  This thing called my book is as good as I can get it.  Hopefully it catches an eye out there, and they agree.

As Rachelle Gardner said in a recent post:
"So seriously…
Send out your query already.
And STOP worrying about looking like a bonehead. Trust me, you won’t! We want to hear what you have to say, we want to see your query, and we don’t want you to worry so much about mistakes you’re never going to make anyway, because you’re way too smart for that."

How about you?  Are you at the query stage?  Have you already faced rejection?  Been accepted?  Any tips or advice, or fears?  Do Share! 


Julia Broadbooks said...

That is a great formula for a perfect query. I'm not ready to write on just yet, but thinking about it still gives me butterflies. I'm taking notes here!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good luck and love your suggestions. I can't even write a decent pitch, so how can I write a query? This does not bode well for my book, does it? :/

Shallee said...

Good luck querying! I'm querying right now, and it was scary at first. I took ages on my query, and I'd highly recommend the query critiques at the Absolute Write forums. I discovered that the best method was to focus on the character, conflict, choices, and consequences, like you mentioned.

As for the other paragraphs, most agents don't care too much about the order of them. Just make them want to read the book!

And when the rejections roll in, it's okay to feel bad. But remember that they aren't personal-- usually, it's not even so much of a rejection of the story, as it is that the story just didn't quite fit with the agent.

And of course, feel free to celebrate those requests! :)


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