Thursday, August 18, 2022

Your Query May Have Ruined It For You

First of all, let me say that, despite what some say on the internet and in workshops, your query letter will not sell your book. Your query letter will not get you that mega-contract. I have seen those workshops and articles and I am sorry to say this, but if you believe that, then I have a bridge to sell you. With that said, I do have to say that your query letter, while it may not get you a contract, will certainly prevent you from getting that editor or agent to read your manuscript.

That query letter is your way into the editor's or agent's office. That letter needs to demonstrate that you are the best person ever and that your story is well worth the effort of the editor or agent. Too often, however, I read letters that do absolutely nothing. It may tell us the title, the genre and the word count, but that is far from enough. Adding a brief blurb of the book is also not going to do it. The query has to SHOWCASE your writing, your professionalism and your writing career. Remember, we are not just signing a book, but signing a package of an author and their writing.

Let's work through the parts of that query letter. While I am talking about standard business letter, this also applies to the email format:

THE HEADING - This is where you would be including who you are sending the email to. Make sure that you have made it very clear who you are sending it to. Make sure that the spelling is correct and their title is correct. If you are simply sending it to Dear Editor or Dear Agent, you have blown it. This is simply saying you have mass mailed the letter. You really don't care enough. This equals a REJECTION

THE BASICS - This is generally the first part of your query letter. This includes the title, genre and word count of the book. This section should also include the high concept of your story. This is a single statement that, in come way, showcases the uniqueness of the story and how it stands out among all of the other stories out there. Telling me it is a coming-of-age story is not a high concept. You might also want to add to this first section why you are contacting that editor or agent. Did you meet with them? Did they request seeing something from you before? Just telling me that you are sending it because they acquire your genre is not enough.

I will also add here that submitting a project that is not representative of your genre is going to lead to a rejection. If you don't know what you write, you have no business being a professional writer. I will also add that if you are making up a genre, or claiming your genre is multiple genres, just to show you are reaching a wide audience is not going to work. Hello, Rejection!

THE BOOK - This is that blurb about the book. It needs to cover the following:

  1. Who are the characters?
  2. What are their Goals, Motivations and Conflicts?
  3. What is the central conflict of the story?
  4. What is the basic plot (all of the way through the conclusion)
Do not write it like those back cover blurbs. Yes, the idea is similar, but ending with "Will they figure it out and get to their happily ever after?" is not enough.

If you don't elaborate on the story and tell us what it is about, we will not write to you to inquire more. We will ignore your letter or reject you with a nice letter back.

THE BIO - We need to know about your professional writing career. Even if you are a new author, tell us about where you are in your career and where you are going. Show us that you are more than a one hit wonder. If this story has won awards, tell us. If you have other stories in the works, tell us. If you have previously published this story or other stories, tell us. 

Let's talk about those previous publications. If you have self-published this book, you need to show us numbers. No, we don't give a rip about those reviews on Amazon. That tells us nothing. We want sales figures (and don't say you can't find the numbers. You know where those numbers are and if they are bad, why do you think we would want to sign a bad book). I would also add that if you have previously been published, give us dates. Don't tell me that Berkely loved you, but in reality, that was back in 1950 and it was for a line that had nothing to do with what you are doing now.

In this section, we do not care about anything outside of your writing career. If you are a scientist and have written lab reports, but are submitting a fiction story, we don't care.

The deal is that the majority of time, I am rejecting people simply because the letter is flawed. Spelling, grammar, professionalism and so forth will equal a rejection. Demonstrating that you don't know a thing about the publishing world will also lead to a rejection. Think of it this way. This is a JOB INTERVIEW! Prove that you are the best candidate.

1 comment:

  1. Every aspiring write should print this and post it on their wall and read it daily.