Ahhh…Query Letters. Those mysterious devices by which an author convinces an agent or publisher to consider their manuscript.
We have all been there, a finished manuscript we believe in, and a list of publishing industry contacts we want to convince our book is the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s gift to readers everywhere.
Hence the Query Letter. We spend weeks, months, years even, writing and rewriting this one page blurb. We read articles, get second, third…tenth opinions.
Yes, this might be the HARDEST one page you ever write.
This is particularly true if you have a sci-fi, fantasy, or other complex novel which cannot be easily summed up in two paragraphs.
There is lots of guidance out there, but putting it into action can seem nearly impossible.
So these are the things I have discovered that I have not seen anywhere:
1. Personality-Give the reader a feel for your main character. Hopes, dreams, etc…
2. Simplify-It will seem incomplete to you (You can’t add a 100k novel’s worth of plot twists in two paragraphs). This is just a basic overview of major conflicts and characters.
3. Triple check Grammar & Spelling-Even things that might be okay in a manuscript are red flags in a query. Fragments, run-ons, comma splices. This is your proof you know how to write! Especially hard when trying to sum up so much info in so short a section of text. Do it anyway!
4. When-Then sentence-The plot and conflict summary should be near the beginning, and the first sentence in a new paragraph. Provides Emphasis and allows the reader to say…oh okay there that is. Also make it clear!
5. Have test readers-You know the story, so it is nearly impossible for you to tell if the blurb makes sense in isolation. Pass it around your writer friends or critique groups.
6. Keep Trying- Don’t give up if you get a couple of rejections, 90% of the query game is subjective. Maybe that agent doesn’t like your concept, or isn’t looking for that genre right now. Keep trying!
7. Don’t Obsess-Move on, leave the letters out there and wait. Write another story, novel, screen play, whatever floats your boat. Responses take a while in this industry.
And MOST OF ALL Keep Writing!