Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Next Query Letter

After writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, and studying the formula for a successful query letter as put out by several agents, I have a question (complaint?):

Why can't they all agree on the same formula? You know, "Here's what we all want from our prospective clients". I feel like I'm playing scrabble every time, I sit down hoping to impress one of them. I reach in this grab bag of words, phrases, information, structure etc and just hope I'll pull out the right combination. Writing the book wasn't this hard and it took nearly a year. The least they could all do is have a great big convention. They can even get drunk, stay up all night playing kazoos, and drive little cars down the street the next day wearing dark sunglasses, then act like they're part of some important secret society that actually runs the world. I don't care. I'll play along. Just as long as they take the time to agree on one simple approach.

Yesterday I turned to published writers who said, "Formulas are all well and good but this is what worked for me". Surprisingly, the advice was: Be yourself. Be your best self. Be professional. But always be yourself.

I can do that. In fact, I excel at it.

I then rewrote the damn thing again and knew it was better, but still not quite on the mark.

Being yourself isn't as easy as it looks.

Finally I searched for examples of query letters put out the agency I'm targeting. Found nothing (I have the impression this is unusual). 'Rewrote it again, trusting my instincts. Felt better about this incarnation. A lot better. It read more like "me".

Maybe I've finally got the hang of that me stuff.

Proofed it. Asked my husband to proof it, then asked my oldest son to proof it. Proofed it again myself.

And sent it.

What I sent out is a little longer than the prescribed query letter length (250 words). Mine is 350. I am hoping my instincts here are on. I worked hard to eliminate excess detail, but 250 just didn't open it up enough. I did leave out all of my bio except a publishing credit. There's really not that much to tell.

The upside to querying this agency is that they also request the first five pages of your manuscript. So hopefully if they don't like the query letter, they'll like the book. The downside to e-mailing is that they don't respond unless they like your work.


When do I assume they don't?

Anybody got a Tums?

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