Jessica Faust at Bookends has a wonderful blog today on queries. If you’re a writer and don’t follow Bookends, you should and I don’t say that lightly. Jessica gives common sense, friendly and knowledgeable advice about the writing industry and the quest for publication and readers
In this blog, she suggests you find a few friends (50 or so) who haven’t read your MS to proofread your query before you send it to agents. She also says if you aren’t getting at least one request for every 20-25 or so queries you send, you really need to stop and evaluate your query and then gives two reasons why it’s failing.
I love her ‘no excuses’ policy. Blaming others, the industry or the market doesn’t help your book hit the shelves any faster.
For the record let me say I hate writing queries. I don’t know many writers who like the damn things. But it is a craft we must learn.
So if any of you are interested in reading my query before I send it to agents, let me know. I’ll do the same for you.
Now folks, I’m going to get some more coffee. Was up late finished Patricia’s Briggs’s Iron-Kissed… yes, it was that good, review to come. ; )
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I know that it’s all about the writing, the story, but every so often, I’d like to write a different kind of query. So I indulged. A disclaimer: This kind of letter would never work in real life. Agents do need to know what you write, but writing this query was fun. : )
Dear “Name of agent,”
I realize since I have followed your blog, your tweets and familiarized myself with your clients that we are starting off on unequal footing. However, as I have only 300 words to get your attention, I’d like to point out a few things. My MS is not perfect, I know this. It is as perfect as I can make it now. Should you chose to represent me, I won’t quibble over commas, I won’t blink an eye if you insist on deleting an entire character. I only ask you give me a moment to lay that loved one to rest before moving on.
If you say you want a revision in a week, flaming snowballs, demanding children or even need of sleep will not distract me, I’ll get it done.
I won’t expect daily emails. You’re not here to hold my hand, but on occasion that might be nice, metaphorically speaking; I know I wouldn’t be your only client. I’ll treat you as a person; I’ll also remember your birthday and Christmas, because I’m like that.
I can’t promise you the MS will sell a million copies, I’m not naïve. But I will do everything I can to see that it sells and I’ll write another one. I’m in this for the long haul.
I don’t have any letters behind my name, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning. You should see my library. I’m also not published, but I’ve been immersed in the publishing world for some time now, working closely with a writer, taking his book from rough to published and into the world that is promotion. And because of this, I’ve lost my rose colored glasses; writing is work, publicity is more work. But it’s work that I love.
Me, the writer.
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Yesterday was a typical Monday. I hit the snooze one time too many and ran around like the proverbial chicken all morning. I wore sweats and declared it an ‘in’ day, because I forgot to do laundry on the weekend… but one thing is vastly different: I sent the first query for The Devil You Know.
The query is an interesting animal. In it you must give word count, genre, contact info, a paragraph summarizing your novel and a publishing history if applicable. Unasked but also looked for is an idea of your voice, your writing style. Can you punctuate? Got a handle on grammar?
But it’s the optional stuff that has my head spinning. Do I list where I know the agent from? Do I list my marketing ideas? At which publishing house I think my novel belongs? Do I mention which of his or her clients I think my writing resembles—with enough difference to make me a brilliant acquisition? And then: How formal should I be? Somewhere between black tie and Bermuda shorts? You know: Good morning, Ms. Agent: Allow me to introduce myself.” And “Hi ‘agent’! I follow your blog and I just love you! I know if you represent me, we’ll get along wonderfully and I promise to do my best to make you a millionaire. Can I buy you a drink? Chocolate?”
Nope. I‘m going for something like business casual and anyone who has ever worked in an office knows that leaves much to interpretation.
Keep in mind; we’re talking a query is only about 350 words. With all this, plus a hell of a lot of work, research, hopes and all my dreams, this query is so dense it’s about to go super-nova.
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Now I know why agents have to ask you to finish a manuscript before you send a query.
When I first started querying agents, I read that little instruction with a bit of disbelief. Why wouldn’t you finish the manuscript? Now, no longer a complete novice, I know.
I hate waiting. Waiting for a possible rejection or even a possible acceptance is excruciating and I’m already feeling it now. In first draft!
I’m progressing at a little over a chapter a day, about nine a week. Intellectually, I know this is a pretty a good clip. I’m writing not just for volume but for content. But I’m impatient with myself and I feel like I’m going agonizingly slow.
In between chapters, I’ve been working on a query. I’ve got a pretty good framework now and I entertained the thought, briefly, of polishing it and sending it to all those agents who only want a query. Maybe *gasp* even polishing the first five pages, a synopsis and the query, sending them all out and then picking up the manuscript where I left off.
We all know that it can take up to six weeks and longer for an agent to respond even to the initial query. By then, heck, by the end of February, the entire manuscript will be completed. If I send the queries out now, I can work on the manuscript while I wait. I’d be wasting time if I didn’t. What am I waiting for?
She sighs and hangs her head. No. I won’t.
Why? It has to do with professionalism and honesty. If I tell an agent I have a complete manuscript for his or her review, I’m going to have a complete manuscript for review; even if it means spending weeks waiting. I do already have the next project in mind. It’s not like I’d be twittering my thumbs or having writing withdrawals.
On the other hand, can you think of a better way to assure an agent asks for a complete manuscript in record time than to not have one ready?
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must be clearing out last year’s mail. There were another two rejections of my Awakening query in my inbox today. One of which I sent at the beginning of October. I suppose in the world of publishing where everything is hurry up and wait, or so it seems, that’s not such a long time. But in the world of waiting to see, it’s an eternity. So I checked. There are six agents I’ve still not heard from. And yes I ended the sentence in a preposition. Sue me. It’s not even that big of a no no. Yup, feeling a little um, frisky today. Warehouse grocery shopping does that to me, and crowds, and the crowds that frequent warehouse grocery places are in a class by themselves. In this particular place, D4 asks to be put in the cart instead of wanting to help push it.
I digress. But what’s new?
As I’ve said before, I really have moved on. It’s time to give the new manuscript a chance. And on that note, as I was driving home, an pitch idea for the new book came to me. First some background. Yesterday I was reading one of the writer-type blogs that I frequent and this obviously talented writer was musing about her 10 word pitch.
Agents like a line that grabs you and as a writer, you are supposed to be able to summarize your book in the following ways: 4-6 page synopsis; 1-3 page synopsis; in a one page synopsis; in a paragraph or pitch and yes, in one line or a hook. You can dispute the names but that’s pretty much it. I’ve actually read some agents who have said if you can’t do this, you’re not a real writer. On my bad days, well, I won’t tell you my reaction; on my good days, I want to ask them if they want a PR person, who can write a jingle, or someone who can write a manuscript. Completely different talents, I assure you. Anyway, it must be done and since reading said blog, I’ve been mulling it over in my subconscious. Here’s what it came up with. If you can, please tell me what you think.
How much do you owe the enemy who saves your life?
Thanks for any input. Now I’m off to do character profiles. : ) Oh and here is a link to a wonderful and fun grammar site. Yes, grammar can be fun. I hope it works
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