Do you want to come along? I am on my way to impress the great Oz with a brilliantly written query letter (version # 53, to be exact). I’ve been here before. In fact, it was just last week that I marched to the emerald city only to discover the doors strong-armed by guards holding WEAPONS OF MASS REJECTION.
I must better prepare this time. I am fearful, but I double back, lick my wounds, and attempt to gain as much feedback as possible before entering the mind-numbing forest again. I search for allies, posting my query letter on several writing forums. I realize this is much like asking the scarecrow and the tin man for advice, knowing they, too, are the same yellow brick road to publication-land. I join anyway. My list includes http://www.savvyauthors.com, http://www.agentquery.com, http://www.querytracker.com, http://www.writersmarket.com, http://www.shewrites.com, http://www.redroom.com, http://www.webook.com and http://www.thenextbigwriter.com. My mission is daunting. For added measure, I join two genealogy sites: http://www.geneabloggers.com and http://www.genealogywise.com.
Gathering courage, we of the writer’s networks, deliberate. We post query after query and strategize our next attack:
•Does your hook pack a punch?
•Should a query mention other successful books in the same vein? We learn quickly to NEVER compare ourselves to a bestselling author. The guards dislike cocky queries.
•Is your query in the present tense?
•Did you introduce your main character by name? We learn that introducing a bevy of characters is considered bad form – one is plenty.
•Should you mention if you are a first-time writer? Are you unpublished? We know to include a bio, but never make ourselves out to be the next big writer and don’t bother touting the A+ in creative writing.
•Do you add your blog/website to the query? According to statistics, it depends. But NEVER point an agent to a blog – such as, “read more delightful prose at http://jenniferswan.net”.)
•Should you open with Dear (agent name), Attention Dear Agent, To Whom It May Concern (not unless you want to get deleted)
•And then the details: double space, indent (but not in an email), Times Roman, 12 point, no > 3 paragraphs, spell check, grammar check, staples versus rubber bands, email or snail mail, no attachments, and don’t forget to add QUERY in the subject line.
GAAAK! Flying monkeys have taken my brain!
I was accused of being metaphor-crazy in my last query letter (imagine that). In query #50, I was tagged as too “business- like”. A few weeks ago, query #51 lacked creative description. Oh wait, now in #53, I have too much description and it is suggested I let the agent “imagine for themselves.” Once, I was even accused of selling myself as a lazy atheist.
To put it bluntly, the feat of writing query letters ain’t for sissies.
But I shall prevail – even as the rejection pile threatens to bury me in its fury. I’ve got my kryptonite packaged in the form of a beautifully completed manuscript. I’m just waiting for someone to realize what a bad-ass I am! (Metaphorically speaking, that is.)
So, how many writing forums do you belong to?
Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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