Monday, June 21, 2010

Query Letters

The weekend was spent working on Cactus Rain projects. I kept thinking that I must stop and blog, but I didn't.

One of the things that I rarely discuss is the query letter. I have written some of the world's worst query letters, so I'm not the person to ask for help. Although I can say it is much different reading them as a publisher.

One thing I've noticed is that since query letters can be sent as email, not as much attention seems to go into them. It is still a business proposal. I've found that many of the ones I've received are much too lax and casual. Draft them and sit on the a few days. Clean up the grammar and spelling. I know I'm dyslexic, but even I notice that stuff. What do you think the big New York agents think when they see a query - that it reflects how the writer writes, that's what.

Another thing, don't pad the query with hollow credentials. It is not impressive to win some little known award, especially from a writer's group. I know books and articles about writing queries say to list all your writing 'credits' and activities. Frankly, I'm just fine with someone who doesn't go to critique groups. It is worth listing if you've gone to a workshop or conference and met the agent there or at least heard them speak.

You must work on your 'elevator pitch' so that you can tell the whole store in 4 or 5 sentences in the query letter. Trust me, no one cares what the middle name of your character is, leave it out unless it is vital to the story. Besides, that is simply boring to read and you want some excitement happening, if you're going to compete with the other query letters.

During the blog party at First Draft last year, we did an exercise of writing log lines. This comes from when scripts were logged into a catalogue at the movie studio and there was only one line to write enough so that one script could be identified from another.

It is a good exercise to practice log lines and the paragraph size synopsis. You'll need to be able to do these not only for the query letter, but for when you're interviewed or someone asks, "What is your book about?"

If you dare, then practice them in the comments. I know Glyn and DJ have books coming out this year, and both of them will probably have something to say - yes, I'm putting you on the spot. How about some of the rest of you? Glynis, Peggy, Carol Anne? Or, I guess you could write something on one of my books, if you've read them and rather not expose your book blurb yet.


  1. I have my back page blurb ready, but not the query letter. It is something that is going to take some thinking about.

  2. Glynis, that's great. Do you want to post it in the comments?