Saturday, October 27, 2012

What the hell do THEY want from my query letter?

After making revision number six thousand, eight hundred fifty-two on my book, I came to the conclusion that if I continue polishing the words, they’ll rub right off the page.  Leaving well enough alone, I was ready to tackle the dreaded query.  

The Internet is packed with articles on the do’s and don’ts of query letter writing.  There seems to be uniform agreement that queries should not exceed one page,  should be single spaced, no less that one-inch margins all around.  The header should contain all your contact information, followed by the name and address of the agent and then the salutation.  After that, the tips on writing a query letter diverge like a spaghetti model of an approaching hurricane.  

  • The opening line of your query can be the hook, the reason for contact or the name of the person who referred you to this agent. 
  • The description of your book can be one, two or three paragraphs, depending on which article you read and take instruction from. 
  • The letter should give the agent a reason why your book should be published - something about the market which would make your book a desirable commodity, or not, again depending on which set of tips you believe.  
  • It should contain a bio, your accomplishments to date and/or education in the craft of writing - or not if you have no credentials to speak of.  

All this in a font no smaller than 12 point, still confined to one page, a quarter of which has already been taken up by yours and the agents contact information, the title of your book, word count, date and genre at the top of an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper, reduced in length by two inches due to the margin!  Okey-dokey!

Having finally accomplished this feat of compressive magic, I was ready to go.  I took out my forward thinking “2013 Guide to Literary Agents” and began to contact those agents who accept e-mail submissions, careful to visit each of their websites to get their exact requirements.  After sending out about twenty e-mails, I happened to come across this link to a free download:

I recommend downloading this text because it is helpful but…..this particular agent informs that the description of your book should be confined to no more that two or three sentences!  Shit!  I just burned twenty good addresses!  My amateur status will be immediately evident because my description took up two paragraphs!  They were short but still…...Not only that, I didn’t spell out the name of my book in CAPS, another terrible transgression on my part.

This leads me to believe that unless I now spend the next several months reading every book, article, instruction and tip, watch every video on YouTube and anywhere else, in short, everything anyone has ever said on the subject, I may continue to send out faulty queries which will go straight into the circular file without even being read, and that’s assuming I send them to the right agent in the first place, a whole separate issue, requiring months of research and investigation.

So, if I want to continue writing my next book and learn how to self-publish one of my completed manuscripts, I should plan to do that, oh, say, a year or two from now.  But wait!  Among the myriad of helpful hints I have already been given, there are repeated calls for creating volumes of material so that I have something to send out to (hopefully) get myself published in magazines, have stories I can use as entries into writing contests, self-publish, feed my blog, make videos for YouTube, and continue to build my monkey chain via writer’s forums, blah, blah, blah.

Anyone have any tips on cloning?

A.J. Aston

1 comment:

  1. My poor deluded dear,
    NOBODY gets an agent through a query letter. It's just a form of torture devised by people who wish they were writers but don't have the talent and/or necessary masochism. Query letters, and all they they entail, is why we have turned to epublishing. (Because the only way to get an agent is to be referred by another agent.) (Have you read Alice in Wonderland?)


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