Friday, January 18, 2013

Convince Me I Want You As A Client

There is this huge myth out there among writers that if your story is good, people will buy it. In many ways, it is the same approach we heard in Field of Dreams "If you build it, they will come." Now, while there are some cases of this being the situation, for most new authors, this is simply not going to be the case. For most of you, getting the attention of an agent or editor is all about marketing and sales and that comes down to writing the most amazing query letter of your life.

I think the one thing I see, time and time again, are query letters that look like templates. In other words, the author has taken some workshop, or read a book on writing and just copied the formula for the query. Now, this might be a great approach for understanding the components of a query letter, the problem comes down to how many other authors are doing the same thing. Now, when we review that query letter, you look just like everyone else out there. You simply didn't sell yourself or your project. You are hoping that we look beyond the query, beyond the babbling synopsis and just look at that manuscript you poured your heart and soul into. In most cases, we won't.

The things you do in that query letter need to go beyond simply "telling" me about the book. You need to show me and demonstrate to me why that story is the best dang thing out there and why you are the client we have all begged for. Let's look at some of the big flaws we see and what you should be doing.

"I have a 90,000 word historical fiction entitled QUERY LETTER HELL set in Victorian England, that would be pefect for you." O.K. You have told me the title, genre and word count, but what is it about this book that makes it special? Why is this story perfect for me? It is here that the "high concept" should be jumping in. It is here where you need to be demonstrating, based on information the agent has put on his or her website about the "qualities" of a historical book they like and how your story does that.

 You simply tell us about the plot. Don't get me wrong here. We do need to know the highlights of the plot, but remember, your synopsis is doing the exact same thing. Your job here is to tell us the unique approaches you take to this story that sets it apart from all of the other stories.  For example, "Set in the Industrial Revolution of England, this story focuses on the the Devonshire Estate but not the things that happen upstairs, but the intrigue and the passion going on downstairs..."

You don't tell us about yourself. No, this is not an opportunity to self-disclose but a chance to highlight your WRITING BACKGROUND. If you don't have one yet, sell us on future ideas and where you see your future going. I am going to steal some words from my editor friend Deb Werksman at Source Books. "We are interested in building a career with you and not simply on a book."

These are just a few points, but I hope you start to see what we are shooting for. If your book is unique, SHOW us how it is. If your book is similar to some other story SHOW us how it is. If you have something to add to the agency, SHOW us what you bring.



  1. Convince me you deserve a percentage of my books. This is so old school, you might want to check the date.

  2. Just a simple note here. This post is discussing the issue of query letters for new authors in search of having an agent. This is not a post talking about agents "deserving a percentage of [my] books." This information about query letters is the same that most will find for cover letters for resumes. It is all about marketing.