Okay, look. I realize that I’m a couple of days late. I could go into the messy details of powder room renovations, balcony patio refreshes, banister painting and contractor calling that has overtaken my life in the last two days but I don’t want to waste the precious time we have, gentle writer. So. here I am, as my grandfather used to say, a day late and a dollar short (several dollars short, blown away at Lowe’s mostly on fifteen different paint samples of varying shades of gray–not the bondage kind, just the regular old, actual shades of gray kind). But here, nonetheless, is a final bit of information I think you should have.
If you’ve gotten through all of my previous blogs on the matter, first of all: Kudos to you, Kid! You’ve put up with a lot of tenth-grade-level writing, inappropriate swearing, probably some sort of weird butter sculpture or Robert Downey Jr. memes, and cut through all of that to, hopefully, gain some inspiration and insight into finishing your book.
So let’s say, for argument’s sake, you followed all the handy tips and tricks. Let’s say you’ve taken the time, effort and guts it needed to type those final words and sit back in front of a finished novel. You’ve let other’s read it, you’ve taken suggestion and time to fix it. Now, here you are.
You big stud. You big amazing pile of human visceral awesomeness. You should take a night off. Go have a drink, or a movie, or a hot bath, or a cat-o-nine-tails whipping. Whatever you like to do to celebrate.
Then, come back to your work space…and write a query letter.
Gulp…a…a…what? A what kind of letter? Qu—Qu—Query?
Yep. You heard me.
At some point along your journey you’ve wondered what it would be like to see your book, your blood, and sweat, and sleepless nights up on a bookshelf. Something hold-able.
Maybe some of you want to leave behind something beautiful, and tangible, and real, before you shuffle off your mortal coil. Some part of you wants to share your story, or you would have never come this far.
Getting an agent is one of the best ways to get your book shared on a large scale. But you don’t just get one (unless you’re fucking fabulous and have the superpower of Luck…)
You have to catch them (not like kidnapping–please don’t let your takeaway from this be an agent abduction). You have to entice agents, capture their attention and interest, and to do that, you’re going to need a rockin’ query letter.
Make sure to research what a good query letter looks like. Here, it’s Friday and I feel bad for being late so I did some of the hard work for you.
Writer’s Digest Query Letter Perfection
Jane Friedman’s guide to query letters
There are some key elements that you should in mind.
- Address the agent by name and do your research. Know who you are querying. Know what they’re asking for. Don’t send your erotic space opera to a Christian YA publisher.
- Keep it short, but snappy. After the greeting, jump into the most intriguing aspect of your story. “Victoria Sullivan threw herself out of a moving car to escape her husband. How far will she go to start over?” A query letter starts like a movie preview and it has to make an impression.
- Keep it under a page. Three to four paragraphs, with three to four lines each and don’t indent them.
- First paragraph is your greeting, brief, personal but professional
- Second paragraph is your project summary: Title, genre, word count, comps (which style or writer can your book be compared to).
- Third paragraph is your PITCH, remember this is the movie tag line, the “Sell Copy” not the “Show Copy”
- Fourth paragraph is your bio and credentials.
- Write a bio that shows you are committed to your craft. I don’t care if you’ve been published sixty times or zero. Write about your passion, any successes you’ve had, and the work you’ve done that relates to your book. Agents love new, undiscovered talent, so don’t shy away if your accolade list is short.
- ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS follow submission guidelines, including correct genre, correct word count, and appropriate agent for your specific project. These poor agents (yeah, I just gave a sympathetic nod to them–little secret, they’re actually human too…with feelings and families and all that beautiful stuff you’ve got filling your life) slog through a lot of queries a day. It behooves them to weed out any that haven’t followed the rules right off the bat. Don’t waste their time; submit in the form, length, and manner they request.
That’s the cut and dry of it.
I will add this; if you have met an agent at a conference or workshop, mention it. Try to remember something specific about them (not creepy-stalker specific “I really appreciate how thoroughly you brush your teeth in the morning, and are those new panties?” is too personal). Try something innocuous and personal; “I enjoyed exchanging stories about our Jack Russell terriers.” or “I enjoyed meeting you at the Erotic Space Opera Conference and talking over our mutual obsession with Jean-Luc Picard.”
Well kiddies, I think we can wrap up this little project on finishing your work in progress. I’m not saying there isn’t more (so, so much more) about writing and publishing to learn. But I’ve got limited time and it’s Friday; I’m sure ya’ll got more fun things to get to.
Write that query letter. Find yourself an agent (go local and small, independent and new agencies are more open to building their own portfolios) and offer them a chance to be a part of your journey. Until next week, when I PROMISE to be on time, write on.