Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On Querying

The Evil Query Letter
The query letter. About which every writing blogger and his mother have written. But, for whatever reason, when the time comes to write said letter, we're ALL likeDarth Vader Nooooo
But, it must be done. So, you may panic for a second. 
 Panic GIFS
Now, stop it. Get thee to thine Scrivener or Word document and begin writing.
Step 1) Talk about your story. In like twoish paragraphs. Maybe three. But, seriously, agents are busy people. I tend to err on the side of too short if it's a choice between too short or too rambly. (Obviously, the best choice is perfect length. But, for those of us who are human, err on the side of too short.) IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not a synopsis. Repeat. This is not a synopsis. Don't sum up your whole story in two paragraphs. No one can do that without sounding ridiculous. All you have to do is get your character, possibly character's age, setting, main event that sets the story going, and super super important events/ characters. That's it. You can do that in a couple paragraphs. I believe in you.
2) Go ahead and do some personalization. (By the way, this applies to you, writer of "Dear Agent" at the top of your letter. At LEAST write the agent's name. Come on, people.) Just talk about why you picked this person to submit to. Hopefully, there is a reason, and you didn't just pick 800 random agents to mail your query to. Mentioning you're a blog or Twitter follower, that you are a fan of some book they represented, or something they said in an interview that made you think that this agent, specifically, could be the one for you. It can help you stand out. If you can't do it right, though, don't do anything at all. Odds are, this part won't make or break you.
3) The author bio. It isn't my favorite, because at this point, I'm unpublished. If you've got nothing, don't worry about it. Just leave it off. Most agents are totally cool with reading first time authors, and there's really no need to point it out in your query. BUT if you have relevant experience: publishing credits, short stories, magazine articles (that have to do with he subject matter in your book somehow), a degree in something pertinent, awards, membership in writing organizations...this is where you list that. NO MORE than a couple sentences, though. You're querying a book, not you.
4) Last-the stats. This should be short and sweet. Something to the effect of: Memoirs of a Muppet is a YA contemporary complete at 457,000 words and will appeal to readers of Kermit: Getting Froggy, and You're an Animal, Animal. The full manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
5) Sign and contact info. (Name, address, phone number, e-mail, website.)
There you have it! Rejoice, for you have a shiny new query letter.
But wait! DON'T under any circumstances...
1) Write Dear Agent.
2) Send out a bunch of crap without researching first.
3) Send a query for something that isn't complete!
4) Ignore guidlines. They're not like the pirate's code. They're inflexible.
5) Pitch a 457,000 YA novel.
6) Say the words "fiction novel."
A more detailed post on how to do that ever important pitch section lata. For now, I leave you with this...
Tobias: So, fill each of these bags with some glitter, my photo, resume,  some candy and a note.
Casting Director or in your case, agent: Ack! The glitter queen strikes again! Never hire Tobias Funke!

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