Friday, May 30, 2014

Query Letters Speak Volumes About You As An Author

I have always found it interesting when I hear editors and agents speak of not really paying much attention to the synopsis and query letter from an author. To them, it is all about the story. And, while there is a part of this that is true - that in the end, the book has to sell - those other documents say a lot. For me that query letter gives me a ton of information about you as an author.

Sure, the query letter gives the editor or agent a basic understanding of the book and what the author is marketing, but it is how the author words things, and what the person says that tells me if this author is really ready to make the jump.

When I see a query letter that looks like it came out of a template from some workshop, this tells me the author is probably still at the beginning stages of his or her career. It tells me the author knows the right things to say and do, but really hasn't found a way to make it natural in his or her writing. Someone like this will probably require a lot more hand holding and a lot more guidance through the process. For this reason, the book has got to be something truly amazing.

When I see a query letter that is overly general, or reads like a mass produced letter, this tells me the author probably did just that. My agency was that round of letters the author sent out that day. I can almost bet that I can name the other agents that received their same letter that day. "Ah, you were in the G's today!" Even if the story has potential, this tells me the author really doesn't understand the business. They don't even know if I am a right fit to guide their career. By the way, I see this all of the time at those conferences where the pitches are a "free for all". When authors sign up for a session with me because "I had an opening" this tells me the person is probably not ready.

When I see a query letter that is overly emotional. The author is spending a lot of time talking about how they really worked at this letter, that this is their first book, or that they put their heart and soul into the book, this screams "needy person." Sure, you might have put everything into the book, but the question I have to ask myself is "How much emotional baggage is this person coming in with?"

Although this is just a small sampling, I think you get the idea. As you look at your query letter, what does it say about you? Is this the image you want to send to that agent or editor?

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