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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: queries, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 431
1. Personalize Your Query

It's easier making your query personal if you follow one of these examples.

https://carlywatters.com/2016/10/03/personalizequery/

0 Comments on Personalize Your Query as of 12/14/2016 2:19:00 AM
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2. Query Dos and Don'ts

Remember a query is your first introduction to a prospective agent or editor.

http://blog.lauraheffernan.com/2014/10/query-contest-observations.html

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3. Query Letter Extras

There's more to a query letter than the pitch, such as personalization and your bio.

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/04/4-levels-of-editing-explained-which-service-does-your-book-need/

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4. Is Your Query Letter Ready

Use this handy flowchart to decide if your query letter is ready to send.

https://intheinbox.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/is-my-query-letter-ready-for-submission/

0 Comments on Is Your Query Letter Ready as of 7/14/2016 4:57:00 PM
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5. Why Queries Are Rejected

Agent Janet Reid shares the reasons she rejected some queries.

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2016/06/reasons-i-said-no-to-25-queries-and-how.html

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6. Query Problems

Here are some common issues that agents see in queries.

https://gloriachao.wordpress.com/blog/

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7. Query Fail

Don't use these phrases in your query.

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2016/07/eleven-queries-that-did-not-get-to-yes.html

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8. Query Letters

There are five basic parts to a successful query letter.

https://janefriedman.com/query-letters/

0 Comments on Query Letters as of 10/15/2016 6:56:00 PM
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9. Query Letters

There are some things you should NOT include in your query letter.

https://querytracker.blogspot.com/2016/06/querying-what-to-leave-out.html

0 Comments on Query Letters as of 10/24/2016 8:09:00 PM
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10. Query Critique: Fantasy

I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog.


Dear Query Queen:

Sworn off family in-fighting and rivalries, Apollo has spent the last decade in Portland, Maine, incarnated as research scientist Dr. Paul Archer.  Family’s not the only thing Apollo’s sworn off  he’s also done with women (of the mortal ilk), and most of all, Pantheon, a chess-like game the gods play with human lives.  So when Venus drops by unannounced, demanding that Apollo repay a debt dating back to the Trojan War by helping her pull off a move in the game, Apollo’s intention is to execute the move, wipe the slate clean, and get right back to work in the lab.   

What Apollo doesn’t expect is how much the pawn, college senior Theresa DiPaulo reminds him of his late mother Leto.  Or how Theresa’s implication in the game revives his long-buried feelings of guilt and failure stemming from Leto’s deicide at the hands of his stepmother  in the very round of Pantheon in which he came into Venus’s debt.  Nor does he expect how compelled he feels to intervene to save Theresa from the same fate.  As the game unfolds, and the parallels to that long-ago round of Pantheon mount up, Apollo gets sucked deeper and deeper in, until he can no longer run from the intrafamilial conflict he left behind when he abdicated Olympus and took refuge DownEast.  Apollo’s got a plan  if only Theresa would open up and let him in, if only she’d stop trying to protect him, if only she loved him back, pulling it off would be so much easier.

I am seeking representation of Playing God, a contemporary fantasy with a romance component, complete at 125,000 words.Playing God picks up where mythology leaves off, bringing the petty and not-so-petty grievances of the gods, their slights and affairs and ambitions, to play out in the modern world.  Zeus, Hera, Ares, Artemis and Mercury all engage, playing for the fate of not just Theresa, but the world.  While Playing God stands alone, I envision it as the first in a series about the Pantheon games, and I have a draft of the next episode.  

I am an attorney (Harvard Law School), real estate broker, and proud alum of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, the prototype for the college Theresa attends, and where much of my novel is based.

As directed by your website, I am including the first few pages of my manuscript below.  I’d be happy to send you the manuscript upon request.  I appreciate your consideration, and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely, 

[redacted]

You should know that this is typically not my type of story. I like fantasy, but tend not to gravitate toward stories this closely set in mythology. For that reason I would pass on this. I'm only telling you this to give you an idea of how truly subjective this business can be.

That being said, I think this is a strong query. I really only made edits to tighten this.

Congrats!

--jhf

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11. Querying: the Do’s and Don’ts and a worksheet

Hi, guys! Erin here.

Last month I asked what we could do to make PubCrawl a better, stronger, more useful resource for our readers. Over a hundred fifty of you took the time to fill out our survey and give us some feedback. We’re still in the process of sifting through all your comments and implementing changes, but in the meantime, as a thank you for sharing your thoughts, I want to offer up a query giveaway.

One trend that was immediately apparent in our survey was that we still have a lot of aspiring writers reading Pub Crawl, so posts on craft, querying, and breaking into the industry are always welcome. With that in mind, here’s a quick recap on queries.

DO:

  • DO personalize your query. (“I saw on on twitter you’re looking for X and thought you might like…”)
  • DO keep it around 250-250 words.
  • DO be professional and succinct.
  • DO include your bio and relevant references, such as major literary awards or writing organization memberships. (It’s okay if you don’t have any. I didn’t! Just sign off with your name, address, phone/email)
  • DO mention genre, word count, and (if applicable) comp titles.
  • DO polish the query until it shines. Every word should be necessary and purposeful.
  • DO proof it carefully (several times!) and read it aloud before sending. You only have one chance at a first impression.

DON’T:

  • DON’T tell the agent how great the book is. Let the query speak for itself.
  • DON’T open with hypothetical questions, use first person narration, or experiment with other unique approaches.
  • DON’T spell out the ending. That’s for a synopsis. The query should be the premise and hook. (Read the flap copy of your favorite books for inspiration.)
  • DON’T submit to multiple agents within the same agency at once. (If agent #1 passes, then you can query agent #2 at that agency. Unless they have a “no from one means no from all” policy.)
  • DON’T give up. Remember that every published writer has been through rejection—every last one—and it only takes one “yes.”

 

Basic Query Format

In my opinion, Nathan Bransford still has the best “fill in the blanks” query worksheet. It looks like this:

Dear [Agent name],

I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist’s quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist’s goal].

[title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author’s credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
[your name]

For reference, here’s my query for Taken (then titled The Laicos Project), which landed me my agent in 2011. Please note there are a few slight Taken spoilers ahead.

Dear Sara Crowe,

Happy New Year! I read on your Publishers Marketplace profile that you are seeking strong, original new voices, and given your representation of a variety of  YA subgenres, I thought you might enjoy my YA science fiction thriller THE LAICOS PROJECT.

Gray Weathersby is counting down the days until his eighteenth birthday with dread, for in the primitive and isolated town of Claysoot, a boy’s eighteenth is marked not by celebration, but by his disappearance. When his older brother meets this mysterious fate, vanishing in the phenomenon the villagers have come to call the Heist, Gray begins to question everything about the place he’s called home. It all feels wrong: The Wall that no one can cross without dying, the Council leaders and their secrets, the nature of the Heist itself.

Desperate for answers, Gray climbs the Wall. But Emma follows him. Emma, who Gray has admired since the day he first stole a wooden toy from her hands as a child. The two are surprised to find a modern city beyond their Wall, not to mention the Franconian Order—a mysterious group of black-suited soldiers that hold the two hostage and then call for Gray’s execution. Running for his life, Gray takes to the forests. These woods are rumored to hold hostile Rebels amongst their trees, violent civilians banding together in opposition of the Order. But the Rebels also have answers. Answers Gray has long searched for, and answers he may soon wish he never unearthed.

THE LAICOS PROJECT tells the tale of a boy caught in events far greater than himself, as in Philip Reeve’s MORTAL ENGINES, and I believe it will appeal to readers who enjoyed the fast-paced and mysterious elements of James Dashner’s THE MAZE RUNNER. Complete at 83,000 words, THE LAICOS PROJECT is the first in a trilogy, although it also works as a stand-alone.

Thank you, in advance, for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Erin Bowman
[contact info redacted]

This comes in at 325 words total and looking back on it now, I think it could be streamlined a bit farther. Even still, you can see that my query follows the basic intro > premise + hook > summary format.

Please keep in mind that like every aspect of writing, there are always reasons to break rules, but I do think it’s especially risky with queries. The query is a tool. Agents receive hundreds of them a week. Going outside the box is unlikely to make you stand out to an agent in a good way. What will make you stand out is a professional, well-polished query with a fantastic hook and some killer sample pages to back you up.

Getting back to that giveaway I promised you…
As a thank you for helping us out with our survey, I’m giving away three query crits to Pub Crawl readers! Simply fill out the widget below for a chance to win. I’ll draw winners a week from today.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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12. Query Letters

Here's a detailed description of everything that should and shouldn't be a part of your query letter.

http://janefriedman.com/2014/04/11/query-letters/

0 Comments on Query Letters as of 9/6/2015 3:18:00 PM
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13. Query Opening

Use this sentence template to present the most important information about your book first.

https://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/a-pretty-much-foolproof-never-fail-silver-bullet-query-opening/

0 Comments on Query Opening as of 9/13/2015 4:49:00 PM
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14. Author Notes and Backmatter

I received a question the other day (thanks, Kate!) about author notes in picture book manuscripts. Great stuff. Let me give you some information on the topic so that you can move more confidently forward with your picture book submissions.

First of all, you see author notes more frequently in non-fiction work. After the topic is covered in the manuscript, it’s widely accepted to hear from the author (limited to about a page, with text that’s not too dense). The purpose is to add a few interesting tidbits that maybe didn’t fit into the actual narrative (maybe you’re covering a certain period in history with the text, and want to add some “footnotes” of what we’ve learned about that period since), or to personalize the subject. Authors will often speak to why they gravitated to a particular subject or why they find it particularly fascinating. You shouldn’t style it as a diary entry, but as long as you can keep up the same tone and level of interesting content, you can take a more personal approach. The tone is friendly and engaging.

For non-fiction/fiction hybrid and straight-up fiction manuscripts, where there’s a non-fiction subject but it’s fictionalized or the project deals with a non-fiction principle applied to a more artistic main text, the author note switches function. If your project, is, for example, a fictionalized account of a historical figure or a purely fiction story whose plot has a lot to do with the life-cycle of Monarch butterflies, for example, you want to use the author note as a teaching tool, to provide concrete information. The text is all about Bonnie observing the Monarch life-cycle, but the author note sums it up with additional facts that would’ve weighed down the text itself. The tone is more academic.

So what kind of author note do you have on your hands? Are you “softening” a non-fiction text or are you adding factual scaffolding to a fiction or fictionalized text? For the former, you’ll want to keep your author note brief. If your text is 2,000 words, 250 additional words wouldn’t be uncalled for, or an eighth of your manuscript length. (Do note that non-fiction picture book texts tend to run longer than fiction, because it’s understood that there’s more information to communicate and the audience is on the older end of the spectrum.) If you are working with the former “scaffolding” style of note, 500 additional words, or a quarter of your main text, would be your upper limit.

These are not hard-and-fast guidelines, but more of an exploration of the issue. Use the author note to say enough, but don’t write a second manuscript. If you find there’s a whole lot you want to add in your postscript, maybe there’s a way to revise the main text? Remember, the note shouldn’t do the heavy lifting. The main text has to be the star.

As for mentioning the author note in your submission, that’s easy-peasy lemon-squeezy: “The main text of TITLE is X,000 words, with an author note of X words at the end.” Ta-da!

I’ve discussed picture books primarily in this post, but MG and YA novels also have tons of room for an author note. If, say, your YA is largely inspired by the historical character of Lizzie Borden, feel free to spend even 2,000 words or so on some of the bloody facts of the case, and why your twisted little mind ( 😉 ) decided to use it as inspiration. Word count limits apply less to novel author notes, though you still want to keep them engaging and quick.

I’ve interrupted my own programming, so look for the follow up to my “Product and the Pitch” series next week!

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15. The Product and the Pitch, Part Two

Many of you who are familiar with my writing have heard me express surprise and frustration at the idea that so many writers are obsessed with the pitch that the product (in our case, the manuscript) seems almost an afterthought. Back when I would speak at conferences, I would get maybe 8 questions out of ten about the query letter, with only 2 about craft. Once the pitch is over (one page, or about three minutes in a conference session), the burden of proof falls squarely on the product. And in the end, the product is what matters!

But people still love to talk about that pitch. I think I know why. It’s what you present, so IT feels like the “make or break” point, not the manuscript that follows. It’s also shorter and more formulaic, so it’s easier to control. You can’t really control whether someone falls in love with your manuscript right from the get-go: Tastes vary, manuscripts are of various quality, and your style comes into play a lot more. But with the pitch, if you have a great query, it’s pretty easy to feel confident. There are fewer moving parts to gamble with.

So that’s where the attention goes. Good? Bad? I say it’s understandable.

The pitch is what opens the door, so it does deserve its fair share of focus. But once you have someone on the hook, you still have to reel them in, and that’s where all attention goes back to the manuscript. So you can’t escape that nasty product part, no matter how hard you try.

To even get people to look, though, you need the pitch to be solid. The more I think about it, the more I see that a pitch needs to:

  • Be specific
  • Be targeted (audience-focused)
  • Answer the question, “Why does my audience need this?”

The good and bad news is that a pitch can’t change your product. It can spin it, sure, and a certain amount of spin is desirable, but if you aren’t already thinking about these questions as you write your project, your pitch won’t superimpose them onto your manuscript in a satisfying way. You can say that your product is all sorts of things in the pitch, but if that doesn’t come across when someone reads it, the pitch is going to get thrown out as inaccurate. So if you’ve never thought about what your book really is, or who it’s for, or why it’s necessary in a crowded publishing marketplace, you’re likely going to struggle mightily with the query letter, which basically asks you to talk about all of these things.

The worst pitch in the world is pretty much along the following lines:

This is a really great coming of age story about a character who goes through a lot of stuff and comes out the other side. It’s for everyone from zero to 100, and I wrote it because I’ve had this story in my head for thirty years, simply begging to be told, and it wouldn’t let me go until I got it all down on paper.

It’s not specific (every story that involves character change can be seen as a “coming of age”), it spits in the face of the old adage about trying to be everything to everyone and brazenly disregards the reality that there are very specific audiences out in Publishingland, and it doesn’t justify its own existence in the larger scheme of things. You know how baby pictures are always adorable to the parents? And that’s great? But not everyone wants to look at other people’s baby pictures past the first couple unless there’s something personal and notable about them? Do you see where I’m headed with this?

Back to Shark Tank. The entrepreneurs that make it hook the Sharks with a pitch that answers the above questions. What’s the product? It’s not just a doohickey. The world has enough of those. It’s a doohickey that’s for…the kitchen, the garage, taking great baby pictures, whatever. In publishing terms, let’s say it’s a dystopian romance.

It’s not for everyone, because if you say it’s for everyone, the savvy Shark is going to know full well that you can’t market a product to everyone. For exaggeration’s sake, that would cost trillions of dollars and you’d have to get your message to the outer reaches of Mongolia. Not possible, nor desirable, even. Because the savvy Shark knows that 7.9999 billion of our 8 billion marketing recipients are probably not going to like or need whatever the product is. There’s only one thing that’s for everyone, and that’s oxygen. (Except anaerobic bacteria don’t like it. See? You can’t please everyone.) And maybe vanilla ice cream. But are you really going to try going up against the clout of vanilla ice cream?! Everyone is different, and we all like different things. This is GOOD. In publishing terms, our example is a dark YA fantasy for today’s troubled world.

Finally, we get to the big “why.” And this is the hardest question to tackle. I am often left with this idea after I finish reading a manuscript. And? So? Why? Why does this need to be a story? “Well,” the writer stammers, “it’s a story I really want to tell about a kid who goes on an adventure.” So what? Everyone goes on adventures every single day. We all have incredible stories that make up our lives. Why do I need to give you hours of my time and dollars of my paycheck to read your story? (Especially since it’s one you just made up?) Well, that’s where the question of theme comes in. What about your story is going to dovetail with my story and bring about a new or different understanding of the bigger picture? How is it going to elevate my life? In our publishing example, let’s say that heavy identity and survival themes are explored against the backdrop of a troubled world, which uneasily mirrors our own. To think about this as you write, to mention this in the query shows that you’ve seriously thought about the “why” and that your product has a raison d’etre (reason for being, I don’t know how to do the little hat accent on the first “e”).

Let’s tie our doohickey example all together and hit all three points:

The Doohickey 3000 is a revolutionary tool for new and exhausted parents that guarantees you’ll never take a bad baby picture. Baby will be so mesmerized by the Doohickey 3000 that they won’t blink, drool, cry, or vomit, and it will coax a gummy smile out of even the fussiest youngsters. Whether it’s to finally get your family and friends to “like” your damn baby pictures, or to take the world by storm by landing your baby on one of those terrible clickbait viral websites, the Doohickey 3000 will help you foist your bundle of joy on the world with ease!

Now let’s circle back to our publishing example:

DOOHICKEY is a dark YA dystopian romance that pits two teenagers against a scary and uncertain world that closely resembles our own. By deeply exploring themes of identity and survival, it will give contemporary teen readers an outlet to explore some of the fear and uncertainty of growing up in a world where there’s a public shooting every week and we have somehow turned into our own worst enemies.

If you don’t know how to answer some of these questions about your own manuscript, maybe it’s time to go back and really dig into that third question, the “why.” Why are you writing it? Why is it a good project to work on now? Why might the world embrace this story?

“Because I wanna write it, I just wanna,” is fine, and that passion is what’s going to keep you going through revisions, but it’s not enough when you start to think about the reality of publishing, which is that publishers want to put products (books) out that will sell to customers (a reading audience). They don’t just exist to make your childhood dreams come true, or so you can print business cards that say “Author.”

Once you know what it is, who it’s for, and why they’d probably like it, then the pitch becomes very easy to assemble.

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16. Email Subject Line

If you're querying by email, you should make sure your subject line gives the necessary information.

http://christaheschke.blogspot.com/2014/06/querying-tip-subject-line.html

0 Comments on Email Subject Line as of 11/28/2015 6:53:00 PM
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17. Bad Query Advice

It's helpful to know what not to do when you query.

http://bookendsliterary.com/index.php/2015/10/28/the-worst-query-advice-youve-gotten/

0 Comments on Bad Query Advice as of 12/30/2015 5:44:00 PM
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18. The Importance of Writing Clips

A lot of writers hear the well-meaning advice that, in order to break in more easily, they should have some writing clips and credits to their resume. It’s good advice, and I especially don’t want to disenfranchise the many writers who have been actively pursuing this strategy with my answer, because it is a very worthwhile strategy.

In case you haven’t thought about this issue before, I’ll summarize here: When you’re an aspiring writer, you have a lot of ambition to write, but not a lot of platform. People aren’t buying what you want to sell, basically. Or, if they are, they aren’t really paying you for it. You’re probably getting opportunities to showcase your work on blogs and at other web-based venues that don’t have a budget to compensate contributors. Or maybe you start your own blog, like this ol’ hack did! This is how a lot of people get going.

Then you think that there has to be more out there that’s, well, more noteworthy to a potential publishing gatekeeper. So maybe you explore other avenues to showcase your work. Whether it’s in the children’s writing realm, say, Highlights Magazine, or in an unrelated area, like an op-ed for the local newspaper, or a poem in a general fiction literary journal, you start to set your sights higher.

Whether you try to gather clips in print journalism, the literary community, scientific or medical magazines (a lot of writers have done a lot of technical writing for their day jobs), etc., you’re basically writing and racking up pieces that someone else has vetted and decided are good enough to publish.

This all makes a lot of sense, right? If you want to write, write, and maybe the momentum of all your writing will speed up your efforts on the book publishing front. Being published is being published, no matter what you’re publishing. And writing professionals love to see writing credits. Right? Weeeeeeeeeell…

It’s not often that clear-cut. Publishing an op-ed in your local paper in Portland is not the magic ticket to calling attention to yourself with a children’s book editor in New York, unless, of course, your op-ed or Huffpo article causes such a stir that it goes “viral” and attracts a lot of attention or controversy. In fact, under my original name (a much longer version of “Kole”), I published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, which is a notable newspaper that people have heard of. And I thought, for sure, this was my golden ticket. The day it ran, I waited for the phone to ring. Aaaaand…my mother was very proud of me. Then one man from Idaho took offense at my sense of humor. That’s about it.

The fact of the matter is, if you can say in your query that you’ve published with a top-tier publication that most casual readers have heard of, that’s going to be an amazing feather in your cap. And agents and editors might take notice. But it’s likely not going to get you a book publishing contract.

And outside of that, if you’re publishing on blogs, or in smaller literary magazines, or in venues that have nothing whatsoever to do with publishing novels, then your clips are going to tell a potential agent or editor one positive thing, but one positive thing only: That you’ve hustled a little and know a little bit about the process. And that’s a positive thing, because that might indicate that you’re at least somewhat easy to work with during the publishing process. But it’s not a guarantee of anything.

My main objection to splitting your focus and concentrating on amassing clips if your primary goal is to publish a book can be expressed in this recent post. The truth of the matter is, some journalists spend years trying to crack the New York Times for their own resumes. It’s an entirely new skillset. First, there’s learning how to write well enough that the Times would take interest. Then it’s cultivating contacts and editor relationships that will get you prime consideration. Then it’s learning the culture of the publication (and every publication has one, no matter how small they are) and learning how to work within it successfully. After a lot of effort, you may finally get published in the Times. But then you’re published in the Times, not in the book realm.

What’s missing from this picture of all the effort you’ve put in? Oh yeah, honing your novel craft, which is why you’re doing any of this to begin with. So gathering clips is phenomenal, but it doesn’t help you accomplish your primary goal directly. And there’s no guarantee that it will help you accomplish your primary goal indirectly, either. You may sink a few years into pitching freelance articles to magazines, distract yourself, and maybe emerge with one well-regarded piece in Real Simple…that has nothing to do with your novel.

Is that payoff worth it? Only you can decide. This strategy only seems to work well when you’re a journalist in your day job, and a novelist by night. Then you possess both skillsets already, and you can jump back and forth more easily. Otherwise, it’s like going through all the work and trouble of growing a new arm, just so you can give your primary hands better manicures. It seems like a lot more effort than it’s worth.

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19. Answering Questions about Queries

people with questionsI get mail! My inbox is always filled with questions. Today I’m answering some I’ve received on the topic of Query Letters.

You’ve said on your blog, “don’t pitch a novel unless it’s complete.” Do you feel the same about query letters? Do we only query completed works, or are ideas fair game?

If you are sending a query to an agent, only pitch projects that are ready to go. If it’s a novel and you are not previously published with a mainstream commercial publisher, this means a completed manuscript. For non-fiction, a complete book proposal and two sample chapters will do. (But the more you’ve written, the better.) Think about it: If I read your query and I like it, the first thing you’ll hear from me is, “Please send a book proposal and sample chapters.” If that looks good and I’m seriously considering representation, I’m going to ask you for everything you’ve got. I can’t sell to a publisher without the whole shebang (unless you are multi-published and a proven commodity). You can’t query an idea, because ideas have no value without execution.

What about sending in a synopsis instead of a query?

Don’t do it. Some people send a synopsis and nothing else, not even a salutation or a closing. IMHO, it’s rude and unprofessional. In fact, I received one today. Just a one paragraph synopsis. Nothing about the author. Just a line saying, “Email me if you’re interested in seeing more.” I wasn’t interested, so I deleted it without responding.

I’m curious to know if there are any cliché phrases that you’ve found in query letters that writers absolutely, positively should avoid.

The thing about clichés is that in a few cases, when used correctly, they can be perfect in a query, especially if they make the reader laugh. In most cases, however, since your query is a writing sample, your best bet is to avoid sounding hackneyed or derivative. The best advice I can give about clichés is another cliché: When in doubt, leave it out.

I’ve heard about authors who strayed from standard guidelines and got picked up by a publisher or agent. Some people encourage us to do the same. We’re told to follow guidelines, then we’re told to stand out. I realize our writing will determine if we stand out or not, but what kind of things that stray from the guidelines would catch your attention in a good way?

I don’t expect you to be slaves to guidelines, I just try to offer tips to help you put your best writing forward. With all guidelines (on writing, pitching, querying, etc.) try to see behind the specific advice and get to the basic truth. With a query, the basic truth is that you need the agent/editor to want to see more, or you’re sunk. It’s up to you to figure out how to accomplish that goal. Use guidelines to help learn the craft of writing and the business of publishing… let them go when you don’t need them anymore. I can’t say “what kind of things that stray from the guidelines would catch my attention” because that’s as individual as the person.

Do you accept query letters for books that have been self-published? I ask this because I have one, but I’ve been seriously considering having it edited by a professional, rewriting it and then seeking representation for it.

Yes… no… maybe. It’s a common question these days but there are too many variables. The most important consideration will always be how good your book is, and how well it has the potential to sell. Most agents prefer you query with your next book, not the one that was self-published. But if you really want to give it a shot, I suggest a normal query to agents, including the self-pub information (release date, sales figures). You’ll find out soon enough if it’s catching anyone’s attention.

I know the importance of addressing the letter to a specific person, not just Sir or Madam or Dear Agent, however, even though I feel as if I know you from reading the blog, Dear Rachelle seems far too informal. Is Ms. So and So acceptable to most women who are agents?

Interestingly, I recently read some heated debate on another blog about the “Ms.” salutation. I was stunned to find that a few women seem to resent or dislike the term. Nevertheless, the correct salutation is Ms. Gardner or Mr. Smith. Once you’ve corresponded with the person, you can take your cue from how they sign their emails. I’m always just Rachelle and I’m okay being addressed that way. Personally, I don’t object to people querying with my first name rather than “Ms.” because I go to great lengths to be approachable by writing my blog.

Could you please provide the pronunciation of the word “query” that won’t make agents/editors wince? Does it rhyme with PRAIRIE or EERIE?

Leave it to an English teacher! Potayto, Potahto. Tomayto, tomahto. Your choice. Just make sure you use the preferred pronunciation of the editor/agent you’re talking to. (tee hee) As for me, I couldn’t care less how you say it. As long as you SPELL it right.

Questions, thoughts or comments about query letters?

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The post Answering Questions about Queries appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

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20. Automatic Rejects

If you you want to sabotage your query, just follow these suggestions.

http://annerallen.com/2016/04/top-10-ways-write-self-rejecting-query-blogger-agent-publisher.html

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21. Query Formula

Take the anxiety about writing queries by following this simple formula.

https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/foolproof-never-fail-silver-bullet-query-opening/

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22. Waiting for a Response

What should you do if you don't hear back from an editor or agent?

http://elizabeth-law.squarespace.com/blog/2014/9/30/the-art-of-following-up-5-things-to-do-when-you-havent-heard-back-from-an-editor-or-agent/

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23. Query Critique: Cozy Mystery

I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the Bookends Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog.

Dear Query Queen,

Wildlife carer Madison Starr is in trouble. She’s back in Australia after her father’s death with one goal: to sell the family home and leave forever. But thanks to her big mouth her plan is in tatters. When Jaylee Olsen, the local realtor, offers to buy the perfectly situated property herself.  Madison lets an old grudge speak for her and refuses to sell to her childhood nemesis. Their confrontation is watched by most of the small town. Hours later Madison is horrified to find Jaylee dead on her doorstep.

I did not like the word "carer" this is super picky and a little ridiculous (no query is judged on one word), but I had to read it twice since I thought you misspelled career. Caretaker?
My only suggestion is maybe to tighten this a bit.  

Branded the number one suspect Madison is forced to surrender her passport, killing any chance of heading back to her carefully constructed life in America. She has no option but to hunt down the killer and clear her name. Her best friend from high school, along with her old teen crush, now a forensic expert, reluctantly help her delve into Jaylee’s life.

Collecting a kleptomaniac dog, assorted puppies and an orphaned ring-tailed possum along the way, Madison and her friends discover she’s not the only one who considered Jaylee their nemesis.

DEAD IS FUR-EVER is a 72,000 word, third-person cozy set in Australia. I hope to feature Madison Starr in a continuing series (The Pet Shop Mysteries - featuring a mix of Aussie wildlife and rescued domestic animals, each with their own quirky personality) and am currently working on a sequel.

I’m an environmental scientist and have lectured in wildlife caring as well as being a carer myself. I am a member and active participant of Romance Writers of Australia and Sisters in Crime Australia. This series has interest and a request from an editor of Penguin Australia but is not yet submitted.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards
[Redacted]

Honestly. I think this is a really solid query. My only concern is that your hook, which is vital to cozy mysteries, is buried at the end and doesn't appear in the blurb at all. 

In cozy mysteries, the hook is what initially sells the book. What makes your book stand out from every other book on the market? What will the publisher put on the cover? A gorgeous home with books out front? A lighthouse? A knitting shop? etc. 

For the cozy market I think this would be stronger if the reason she needed to return to Australia had to do more with the hook. Perhaps she's selling her father's shop of some sort. 

I love that it's set in Australia, but it might make it a more difficult sell, especially if your hook is more or less anywhere. What about a hook that's more unique to Australia? 

Lastly, on a beyond-the-query note, I think you should consider a hook that stands out a little more. A pet shop has been done. Is there something that hasn't been done yet? 

This is great overall.

--jhf

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24. Why Query Rules are Important


If you follow me on Twitter you'll see that lately I've been doing a lot of complaining about people not following query guidelines. I'm not sure if there are some new rules out there that I'm not aware of, or if people are just spending the summer querying without doing proper research.


I've written endlessly about what makes a good query. What I don't think I've ever done is written about why there are query rules.

An agent's query inbox can be daunting. Moe just confessed to me that in two months at BookEnds she has received 1500 queries. That's, well, insane. When facing any challenge like that I think we can all agree that we set up perimeters to thin things out. It's like organizing your home. The first thing you're going to do is throw away anything that's broken. Then you might throw away anything you haven't used in years, etc, etc. A query inbox is the same.

The first thing an agent will likely do is look at the genre. If it's far outside of what the agent does she'll reject it. For me that would include short stories, children's picture books, techno-thrillers and screenplays. I don't do those, it's unlikely you'll sway me on that.

The next thing an agent will do is read the blurb. This is why you need a blurb. I need to know in a few short paragraphs if the book is what I do. Sure its a thriller, and I do those, but is it on a subject I'm interested in? Does it grab my attention? That will help me weed those out. 

Then I'm willing to read more. Once I've weeded things out I can really get to work. That's the point where I'll start looking at chapters and a synopsis. Not before. At that point I have my short list and a good idea whether or not these projects are right for me. Now I can devote time away from clients and other BookEnds duties to build my client list.

Not following the guidelines makes it more difficult for me to quickly evaluate and make decisions on things, other than what you might be like as an author. 

If you feel like sending me a paragraph about yourself and how you have dreams of writing the book and instead of a blurb have simply pasted the synopsis below I'm going to think you're someone who thinks you're above the rules. That's going to make it hard to work together and, likely, not someone I want to work with.

No matter how you spin it, we make decisions based on your query, not following the rules (or even attempting to follow the rules) gives us an immediate impression of what life would be like with you.

--jhf

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25. Query Critique: Nonfiction

I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog.


Greetings Query Queen:
Everyday parenting is demanding enough, but expecting parental perfection is the curse of our age. As a grandmother, I have seen way too many households ruled by small despots, with parents scurrying to clear the path for the mini-monarchs. Really? I wonder. Could this be doing anyone any good? 
            Grandma Has Seen It All, and She Suggests That You Avert Your Eyes gives moms and dads the support and tools they need to enjoy a more balanced, productive, and fun parenthood. The tone is calm, authoritative, and light. I haunt mommy blogs and toy-strewn playrooms, and load up my pocketbook with nuggets of wisdom from the best current research. The book will be 250 -300 pages.
            Some background: my book, [redacted], was quoted on the front page of the New York Times, and Time magazine, and sparked a family meals movement. Since becoming a grandmother (I now have four grandchildren.) For years, I have written a family meals blog for the [redacted] Company. I have written a blog about grandparenting for [redacted]. And I have my own grandmother blog. Now I want to help the beleaguered parents I have seen in my recent time on the playground. Many of them could do with the hugs and forgiveness and dignity that they lavish on their children.
            Today’s parents wistfully recall the freedom they enjoyed as youngsters, but insist that the world is now too dangerous to let their kids out of their sight, despite all evidence to the contrary. Child abduction? Recent research from the University of New Hampshire shows that children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of one percent of all missing children. We turn our worry that our kids won’t get into college or get good jobs into straight jackets for them and for us.  And our culture of competitive, fear-centric parenting doesn’t help. Today’s families are smaller, with older parents who are unlikely to have experience taking care of kids other than their own. We are facing a famine of common sense. Somebody has to call “Time!”
            I trace the beginnings of our current “priceless child” mentality to the end of the 19th century, and help parents to move themselves, and their families, out of the path of this anxiety juggernaut. The bonus is that our kids are more likely to grow up to be responsible, optimistic, capable, fun-loving adults.
            Important books about the meaning of parenting draw wide audiences and spark intense conversations across the culture. Many of the recent popular books have been written not by parenting experts, but by journalists like myself. This book, which questions current assumptions and gives parents more satisfying options, has the potential to be such a book. 
            More background: an earlier book, [redacted], won the National Jewish Book Award, was on the Boston Globe bestseller list, and was translated into German, French, and Dutch.
 Many thanks,

Miriam Weinstein

I have to say. This is a really strong query.

I love that you started out with "Greetings" instead of the typical "Dear". While it's not that big of a deal I think it opens the book in a friendly, cheerful way and I think it really represents your voice and tone.

Your first paragraph grabbed me and hooked me in. I'm not a fan of rhetorical questions, but it works here.

I don't love your title. It just doesn't grab me, but that can easily be fixed. By the way, I only thing titles can be easily fixed if the rest of the query is working for me.

It's smart to open with your credits which are quite impressive. What would add to this would be numbers. When writing nonfiction, we want to know who your audience is and how big they are. We don't need numbers on everything, but generally that you're reaching 10,000 people a week would be hugely helpful. This is almost required. Mommy bloggers were huge a few years ago, but the ones who sold books had not just a great voice and idea, but a huge following.

My only concern with the next paragraph is that it feels very specific and a little judgmental. Not the tone any parent wants, especially from a grandparent. I wonder if you can't blend the next two paragraphs, discuss some of the specific issues you will be addressing, but also talk about tracing the "priceless child" trend.

I think you have a good idea here and I won't be surprised if you get lots of requests on this.

--jhf

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