Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to Write the perfect Query Letter

This week I thought I'd write about finding an agent. I figure most of us have queried in the past, are doing so right now, or will be querying in the future. (Plus it's a topic that is very fresh in my mind, since I sent my last query just 2 weeks ago.)

So look out blog readers, I'm about to tell you the secret to writing the perfect query letter.

Here it is:

1. Write a summary that makes the book sound better than Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games.

2. Have a ton of writing credits and hopefully at least one work that's been on the NYT Bestseller list for 10 weeks or more (or maybe a Pulitzer)

3. Remind the agent that you've been best friends since kindergarten.

See, it's easy.

When I first started researching query letter writing, I wondered what on earth I was doing trying to get a novel published. My story was definitely not the next Harry Potter, I had never had so much as a limerick published, and I didn't know ANYONE in the publishing industry, .

My first 30 attempts at query writing failed miserably. Then I came across a blog that gave a simplified approach to writing a query letter. The blog author suggested the writer fill out a worksheet of important elements in the story and then combine the elements into sentences to form the pitch and the rest of the query. This fantastic blog held the first practical query writing advice I'd seen. It made the process easier. I filled out the worksheet and played with combinations until I finally had a query that had voice, conflict and a reason to care about the MC (albeit, still not a single publishing credit). It wasn't the perfect query letter, but it was so much better than any attempt I'd made before.

I sent it to an agent the next day, and two days later my inbox sang with a request to read the full manuscript.

What has been the most helpful tool for you during the query writing process? Have you come across any great advice that you'd like to share?


8 comments:

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

My most helpful tools are my writer friends who read my query and give me great advice. :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

I remember Charlotte Dillon's writer website having a ton of query examples and how-tos. They really helped a lot.

Terri Tiffany said...

Do you have a link to that site? I have written and rewritten my query letter and am not satisfied at all! Help! Not sure when I can say it is good enough!

Natalie Bahm said...

Here's the link:
http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-put-it-together-into-one-neat.html

:)

Patti said...

Great post for me as I'm about to hit the query road again in a few weeks. My first attempt at querying failed miserably as well.

Lazy Writer said...

I agree with Jennifer. I saw a lot of samples on Charlotte Dillon's web site. Her examples were all for romance, so I had to keep that in mind when reviewing them, but it was helpful.

Tabitha Bird said...

okay, I am going to go check out that blog... great post. Thank you:)

Laura Martone said...

I'm still in the revision phase of my novel, but I have taken a stab at the query... just to learn ahead of time. And the most helpful advice I've found is on The Public Query Slushpile - a terrific writing community where you can give and get feedback in a supportive environment. I can't recommend it enough!