Saturday, September 6, 2008

Regarding Queries

Writing query letters is tough. Considering that editors and agents only look at these documents for roughly 20 seconds and often make decisions based on that letter in that period of time, these things have to be perfect. And yes, I know you have all heard many editors and agents say that they don't read the query letter but guess what, they are still making a decision based on that letter. They may not read the whole thing but looking at that letter even briefly because it is on the top of the stack you sent to them is still shifting their thoughts.

The real issue I need to address here is making that query letter personal. Sure, I understand all of the information is essentially the same, but that letter needs to be targeting the person you are submitting to. One size does not fit all.

Just as a reminder, when you are doing anything with standard cover letters for jobs, one rule you should work with is to build the letter around the criteria that the employer is really looking for in that new hire. You find that information in the job posting. Well, the same holds true in publishing. You know I have said there is no difference in publishing and the real world? Guess what? Here is another place!

Before you send any query letter out, you have to do that research. What is it that the editor or agent is really looking for. Incorporate those words into the cover letter. What you are doing is essentially showing them how your story really does fit in their agency or house. You do the thinking for them. Essentially, as i would be reading the query, my mind, most likely unconsciously, would be saying "Wow! This person is doing everything I want in a story." Now, when I get to reading that story, my mind should already be leaning in the direction of wanting to see more.

O.K. I should warn you that just slipping in key phrases will never be enough. I have people tell me all of the time that their stories are one thing and they are far from that. This is a bigger issue. This is one of a writer not having a clue about their work.

So, take a look at that query. Target that editor. Target that agent. Say and do what they want to see!


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