Monday, January 10, 2011

Most Queries Fail Due To Poor Communication Skills

I am not a big fan of writing about query letters. There are agents out there that feel this is their role in life to provide that feedback so why repeat a lot of what they say. Still, there are times that it is important to add a new element to this discussion.

It is important to remind ourselves how many submissions agents and editors receive and to think of the amount of time an agent or editor spends on that project. What they do is very similar to the amount of time a future employer might spend reading your cover letter and resume. In simple terms, it is a very SHORT period of time. For that reason, communication skills are crucial for making that sale.

When I look at projects, if I honestly have no idea where you are going with this story. If I have no sense of a plot or premise, the odds are you will be seeing a rejection letter from me. Asking for more material from someone who struggles telling me the premise of their story in a paragraph or two is potentially causing me the time to have to read a larger story that does the same thing.

I know what some of you are saying right now. "But Scott, writing query letters is haaarrrdddd! Some of us just can't write a good letter, but our story is good."

Wait a minute. Let's stop and think about this. You are a writer. Writing requires communication skills. This is a project that you have been working on for at least 3 months if not more. You have to be able to tell me what the story is about. If you struggle with telling me something that has been your life and soul for this period of time, can I honestly believe you can describe a scene in a book without me getting confused? Can I believe, if you are writing paranormal or fantasy that your world building is clear? The odds are no.

Take some time to go and visit all of those other agents that spend a lot of time talking about query letters. You will see that, in the end, it is all the same thing. But eventually, what it all comes down to is the sale. Convince me!



  1. My biggest fall back when writing a query is I worry too much about that hook, making it wow the agent so that agent will request more. I think it's holding me back, maybe I need to cool it, write what the story is about get some critiques and stop stressing over hooking the agent on the first try. (Epiphany moment thanks to your blog. Thanks!)

  2. I agree. When I was writing my query, however, my issue was that I was just too close to the project. I honestly think it was someone showing me how to construct a query using my own work, that eventually led me to be able to construct a query on my own so that I could see through all of the sub-plots and layers I like to add to my story. Queries are definitely hard to write.