Query Letters = “Do I Have To?”
Definition of query letters according to Agentquery.com: “A query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book.”
Query letters might be the bane of my existence, at least within my world of writing and publishing. Look at the above definition. Notice anything? Let me point it out- “single page”. Have you noticed I tend to write a lot? Ask just about anyone who’s met me for even a second, I can’t shut up! This tendency toward verbus vomitus (I’m 99% certain that’s conjugated incorrectly) doesn’t always extend to my fictional work, unfortunately, but definitely can impede other areas.
Also, for all the ability I have to describe a person, place or thing, I can’t figure out how to describe my book in a concise and interesting manner. “Well…there’s this girl, Mera, who lives underground and wears a white uniform… And, uh,…” This is a gross exaggeration, of course, but it’s along the lines of what I do. I can’t always separate the main idea from the details, and my mind usually goes toward the strongest image I have of what I’m describing. In this case it’s the white uniform. Yes, it’s important to set up the story/characters and visually I think it would look amazing on the big screen (wink wink Hollywood), but it’s not essential to the description. So how do I combat my small-picture brain to create a big-picture summary?
I ask my talented friends!
Sarah, who I’ve known for 20 years (Ye Gods, am I that old?!), has been the biggest help. Here’s a big piece of advice- when you don’t know, ask someone smarter than you! Sarah has done her homework, and she’s always the one I go to for writing advice.
So here was her advice regarding query letters. Start summarizing your story; don’t worry about length, just write. Then, write 3 (or more if you need) shorter summaries that highlight the main subplots. From there figure out the energy of the story and form the query around this. This is amazing advice and helped me so much.
I did as Sarah advised, and we still took a week of back and forth emails trying to nail down my query. She is a saint, just so you know. I couldn’t have gotten a better query on my own, that’s for sure. So we nailed down the query to a healthy and respectable 300 words, and I was ready for my critique at LTUE.
As I said in my previous post, the editor was great and so helpful. His advice on the query was to shorten it by 1/3 to 1/2.
Noooooooooooo… That’s all I can say about that. I totally understand his reasoning. Editors and agents have short attention spans (his words, not mine so don’t hate me potential editors/agents!), and they want to get to the point quickly. Makes perfect sense! It’s just my inner whining, bratty kid that wants to kick rocks at it and pout that “it’s too hard!”
So I licked my pouty wounds for the last month and, finally, petitioned another friend (very talented essay writer) to see if he could shorten the query. He did, and it looks great. I showed it to Sarah, and she suggested I find a way to mold my query with the new one. Basically I need to make the new query sound like me and the way “The Cavern” is written. Shouldn’t be too hard, but what’s the title of this blog? I’m procrastinating, yet again!
Let’s wrap this up. I despise query letters, but I understand the need. It’s the same as the summary on the back of the book. The query just has to hook the person you’re pitching. So my advice is to know who you’re pitching to, and be sure you match them and their personality as best you can. You want the greatest chance to succeed so why pitch yourself to someone who won’t get you or your writing?