Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Query Sold My Story...Ummm, Not!

Every now and then we read articles or hear authors talk about the query letter process. Even at conferences, agents and editors are frequently asked about queries that we read that really sold us on a book. What I find interesting is that many of these professionals end up saying the same thing. It was not a matter of the query letter but the actual story.

So where do these stories come from? Why do authors keep asking this? I think for many they miss one key thing that we stress over and over again.

The query simply got our attention. The query got us reading. The query hooked us enough to want to read the story. But more importantly, the story that we end up reading based on that query letter was AMAZING!

If you think of your query letter, you have to think of it like the opening chapters of your book, or the introduction to anything you write. Think of it as the preview for a movie. There has to be something in there that makes us want to say, "I have to see this!" That hook, that attention getter has to demonstrate something unique and special about your project that makes it stand out among all of the other projects out there.

There are three issues that we see authors face when it comes to these query letters.

The first issue is that they spend all of this time trying to create an overly crafted query letter full of cliche's and gimmicks. These authors are the ones that seem to think that if they write this amazing query, then we will sign them immediately without the manuscript. Probably not going to happen. In fact, we can often see that the query comes across as artificial and then we pass on the project.

The second issue is that the author really doesn't know what makes their story special. This connects to the issue of marketing that I spoke of earlier this week. Now they have a query that doesn't do much for the simple fact that the story doesn't have much either.

The third issue is when the author seems to blow off the query letter and seems to think that the story itself will speak for itself. In this case, we aren't even going to consider opening the submission because nothing caught our attention.

The point of all this is pretty simple. Your query is just an introduction to you and your project. Know what makes you special and what makes the project special and bring that out in the query. Demonstrate to the editors and agents why they would want to read the project.

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