Friday, March 29, 2013

Query Quandry

So, as it turns out, writing a novel isn't enough. You then have to write a letter that hooks an agent into wanting to read your novel, love it, and want to send it to an editor who then also reads it and loves it. Ideally (I hear tell) this letter ought to be 250 words or less.

I didn't realize this would be harder than writing the novel itself.

It's soooo harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd

Granted, Learn to Howl still needs some edits. One of the characters is going to have a name change (because it's far better suited for my CampNaNoWriMo novel), but Find and Replace is a beautiful thing. There's one conversation that needs to happen, and one that needs to get slightly more complicated. Other things need slight adjustments, more explanation. Etc.

Writing a query letter feels so very stilted to me. I'm so wrapped up with trying to impress and trying not to be a doofus that I feel like everything comes off wooden. It's the same when I've written a cover letter to apply for a job.

Dear So and So

I am awesome. I wrote this book. I also hope you think it is awesome. You totally want to read it now, right? Based on this? I really hope so.



See? (You'll be relieved to know that none of my "best" query drafts actually include kisses. Not even shark kisses. But, I'm trying. I'm reading Query Shark, and Slushpile Hell (reading these two fill me with hope, by the by), and the query letter section of Absolute Write. I'm building a list of agents I think sound cool and fun, who are interested in Urban Fantasy (and other things that I write, like Steampunk, as a hopeful bonus).

I did manage put a query letter for Learn to Howl on the Query Letter Hell section of Absolute Write, and am happy to say that I'm learning from it. I kept my defensiveness away because really, I knew it was a bad query. Not laughably Slushpile Hell bad, certainly. But boringly bad. So I've got some things to think about, and have made an attempt at changing it. I've put off writing the synopsis for the time being, if you can imagine such a thing.

In addition to the query letter, an agent typically wants something else. X amount of pages. Perhaps a synopsis. Perhaps a query letter, bio, short synopsis, and twenty five pages. No attachments, please. Attachments are fine. No snail mail. Some snail mail fine. Query letter only. Snail mail query letter only, with SASE. I've included these things in my document of each agent, in the hopes of being able to tailor the best query package to each of them, when the time comes. I know Learn to Howl needs to go through at least one other draft before strangers can see it, probably more like two. Or three. I should read it out loud to the dog, so that I know it sounds all right.

High Five!


  1. I think ending the letter with "kisses" is pretty brilliant! Have you considered actually kissing the bottom of the letter?... might be harder with email, but worth a try!

    Seriously though, good luck. It's a tough slog, but I think it's totally worth it. Only piece of advice I'd offer too, is make sure you research the agents carefully. There are a lot of reputable agents that might not be a good fit for your work.

    Good luck! I hope you have another post very soon about signing with someone.

    1. Hah, signed with e-kisses!

      Thanks very much. I do know that the novel needs a lot of work still to be agentable and/or publishable. I also know that the market is saturated with werewolf crap lately, so I need to show why my novel isn't just like all those others. The lack of romance will help, I'm sure (I hope.)

  2. Yes! I am working on a book now, and am so scared of the part that comes after! I have heard so many writers say that writing queries and trying to get published was much harder than finishing the book!

    1. I've heard of some people writing the query before the book is even finished, which is an interesting notion, I think. Maybe it helps them keep on track? I dunno. Not even outlines keep me on track!

      Good luck on your book! Just keep your head down and write it.