26 August 2010

Query Facts

by Eisley Jacobs

Whoa, if you thought writing a novel was hard, try fitting your whole novel on one page and having it make sense! THAT is hard…
So the query writing continues. But goodness, I am learning so much about it every day. Things that I will take with me into the wild blue yonder when I go… (why do people go to the wild blue yonder anyway?!)

So… what have we learned? Like I said, a ton. Here are just a couple things that I have noted.
How to start:

You know, I was told by more then one writer tips on how to start this query. More then one (six) said they suggested to look at the back/jacket of your favorite book and go from there. I am here today to dispell that tip and tell you to ignore it.

Why? Well, in no way is a query similar to what is on the back of a book! The book teaser is designed to give you the desire to read the story, to pull you in to discover all that is within it’s pages. It has mystery and intrigue… while yes, your agent wants mystery and intrigue, you can’t share your book idea without sharing the nuggets which most certainly are not on the back of the book. If you can get passed this myth, query writing will get that much easier.

The agent WANTS to hear about the turning point in your MS, the information you want your reader to discover, the thing that you want them to GASP at! The agent NEEDS to know this, it’s not for them to guess or for you to be vague about. Extremely different then the teaser on the jacket.

So, please, please… if you are suggesting people look on the back of their favorite books… don’t. It just screws us all up in the head.  Making us think we are supposed to be vague and not give you the Ps and Qs.

HOWEVER, they do not want a synopsis of the book. They want you to draw for them your novel in a few short lines… It should take them five minutes to read your query. Not twenty.

Elements of the Query:
Your query should include two distinct elements:
  • Information about your novel
  • Information about you
That is it. The agent doesn’t want you to waste her/his time by telling them how long you have written this novel, the time you have spent polishing it, paying for it to be edited etc… They just want to read the query and move on. They get 500 queries or more a week, and if you are wasting their time straight off… form rejection. I have read this over and over on agent sites and FAQs and so this is important.

When do I send it? (When is it complete?):
Never ever ever send out a query if you haven’t been rewriting your query for weeks… yes, I said it WEEKS! Do I need to repeat that? No… okay, but really. I mean it. Here’s why…

I thought I wrote “The Best Newbie Query Evah” in October… Like serious. It was THE BOMB.

Yah… it certainly bombed! It was the vaguest most suckiest thing someone could actually submit… and I submitted it to TWO agencies… TWO! Got rejections letters to prove it!

*hangs head in shame*
You do have to start somewhere but go up from there. With the help of some other writers the query is shaping up. In fact, my deluded self thought once again, “The is NOW the best newbie query evah!”
Yah… ummm… no.
I have been humbled… yet again. While I am not discouraged at all in the query writing process, I have realized that when I say “… best evah…” it is nearly never that.
But, the query writing process is just that… a process. Get others to look at it for you, suggest some things. Peer input can not be discounted! Yes, I know it’s hard to let your peers read your “Not so perfect/Best Evah” stuff… but if you want to be a writer, you have to get peer input.


Personalization only matters… sometimes (Check out this article from Weronika Janczuk). Which takes a whole lot of brown nosing pressure off! I mean, if I genuinely have a connection to the agent somehow, fine I will include it… but I am not one for sucking up anyway so this is awesome.  Phew!
However, that does not mean blindly sending with no name or read up on the agent. That is a given, you must do that. State right away what you are writing them for: “I am seeking agency representation and would appreciate your consideration” Around this point if you do have a connection with the agent, this is where you would say it… please don’t say something like “Yah, my cousin Luna said you are awesome!”  Something like, “Luna Lovegood, from the Quibbler, suggested I… blah blah blah.” Make it short and sweet. Like I said, don’t waste their time. You don’t have to remind them of their connection to their “friend”. If they are truly a friend worth mentioning, they will remember.

Draw your story out:

You have been writing this novel for 1-10 years now. You know the ins and outs of it like you know your own children, and maybe in some cases, even more so!

But the agent has never heard it. Draw your story out (and I do not mean draw it out in the long sense… but help it to flow! Bring it to light!) Write an interview or something in first person. Put yourself  in your MCs shoes and write something out about what you need to get across.
If your MS is already written in first person, try it from the reporter position. Write out EVERYTHING you can think of… then keep it handy when you start your query. It may not work for you, but it did for me.

Don’t Stress:

You know, when I started this process, I think I got ulcers. I was very worried about sending agents my stuff, well I still am but I have a healthier understanding of this whole process.
It’s nothing personal if they send you a rejection. Could be one of a thousands reasons they couldn’t take you on at this time. Maybe they are searching for a specific thing and you just aren’t it… YET! I stress on yet… the market changes as much as the weather does. What is in today, could be on it’s way out tomorrow. What is not accepted today, could be the “Best Evah” tomorrow. So press on, send out your queries and frame your first rejection. It will be a beautiful reminder to you later that you didn’t give up.

Did you know Jack Canfield the author of Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 134 times, including 20 major publishers?

Chicken Soup for the Souls agent, Jeff Herman, says:
No rejection is fatal until the writer walks away from the battle leaving dreams and goals behind.
Which means… get up, dust your sandals off, and submit again. In this technical day and age, the costs is virtually nothing. You have no excuses.

So, what are you waiting for? Go finish that novel and write the “perfect” query.

Oh yah, that is another thing I have learned… “There is no such thing as a perfect query.”

Eisley Jacobs has been writing, since preschool, tentative strokes on paper that made her parents smile with pride. In high school, Jacobs discovered what would become a lifelong love for the written word. It was not until fifteen years later that she began to pursue that love in earnest. Jacobs now writes Middle Grade Fantasy, YA Fantasy, New Adult Fantasy, and Religious Paranormal Fiction. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her children, photography, drawing, singing, American Sign Language, Scrapbooking, BUNCO and much... much more.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I also read a Writers Digest article about agents' pet peeves and they mentioned:
    - spelling the agent's name incorrectly (you'd think this was a no-brainer)
    - using an informal tone (like writing to a friend)
    - having no clue as to the genre they specialize in
    - spelling mistakes
    So yes, a query letter may take weeks to write!