What I’m Working On/Querying Tips (Writing Killer Query Letters) Double-Post

Hey guys. Since my “What I’m Working On” post is going to be short again, I decided to do another double-post. I’m thinking that I may make some changes to the blog schedule since I’ve gotten better at following it and would like to change some things up. If there’s anything you’d like to see more of, please do comment. I love hearing back from my readers.

What I’m Working On:

I’m still working on my “love” prompt and short story–You Know You Love Me. I’ve posted the first part here if you want to check it out.

you_know_you_love_me

It’s been very interesting writing this story from Riley’s point-of-view.  I have to not only see things from his view, but also make sure that he isn’t too easy to sympathize with because I don’t want that to take away from the true message of the Creeper story–that stalking does exist, can happen to anyone, and should be taken more seriously than it currently is. Writing the story from Riley’s perspective has been a pretty fun experience so far and pretty creepy at times. I can’t wait to see how his story ends–because I honestly don’t know how it will. This is the first time in a while where I don’t know what is going to happen at the end of one of my stories.

Anyway, that’s mostly all I’ve been working on. I haven’t had too much luck with any new Whispers of the Heart chapters even though I really need to get more written. It just seems like I’ve lost inspiration for that story at the moment. Hopefully I can get back on track soon. If I didn’t have eager fans waiting for new chapters, I would honestly probably just take the book down and leave it unfinished until I became inspired to work on it again. I don’t want to disappoint anyone, though. So I am going to do whatever it takes to get that book finished.

qatotw

Tips are from, as usual, the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents. Today we will be focusing on one of the most important parts of getting a book published–getting your query letter written. The information I obtained for this post is from a real agent named Mollie Glick.

Ms. Glick states that when it comes to acquiring an agent, “The trick is to write a query letter strong enough to catch that person’s attention.”

There are five parts that make up a query letter:

1. Professionalism.

Writing a query letter is similar to writing a cover letter for a job application. Query letters and cover letters both go to people you’ve never met before (unless you happened to meet your agent at a conference or some other event) and who receive lots of them. Your query letter should show an agent that you are professional, smart, and interesting.

The best way to do this is through the tone and content in your letter. Keep the tone professional but specific and interesting. Make sure to proofread it before you send it out (common sense but many writers still seem to forget to do this). Badly written query letters full of grammatical errors aren’t going to impress anyone, especially agents. Keep in mind that query letters should be no longer than a page. Keep your letter to the point.

2. Contact Information.

Contact information is important. Without it, how will your potential agent be able to reply back to your letter? When it comes to snail-mail queries, contact information should be easy to locate. It’s recommended to center your information at the top where the agent will easily be able to spot it.

When it comes to querying via e-mail, it’s recommended to put your contact information at the bottom of your e-mail, right after your signature. This allows the agent to go ahead and get right into your e-query rather than them having to pause to scroll down to get to the content.

3. Salutation.

It’s important to professionally address an agent. Acceptable forms of this is addressing the agent by their last name (Ms. Smith), both names (this is usually for cases of gender neutral names) or Dear Agent. It’s best to address an agent by their name, though. How would you like it if someone addressed you as “Dear writer”?

4. Book Summary.

This is considered to be the most tricky part of the query letter. You must be able to summarize what your book is about within a paragraph. As a writer, I agree that it is scary just thinking about it. I believe our brains are wired to write more, not less.  The best way to begin summarizing your book is to develop an “elevator pitch.” An elevator pitch is a one to two sentence description that sums up your book. You can do this either through a brief book summary or going after a vital theme that is present in your work.

Elevator pitches are good ways to start off your book summary paragraph. After you have told your potential agent what your book is about, you can make a case on what type of audience will be seeking your book. A good way to do this is to compare your work to other authors that write similar books. Make sure you don’t go after bestsellers like J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown–that’s overkill. Make sure that the comparisons you make are accurate and not the same books that other writers typically compare themselves to.

5. Author Information.

I’m not talking about contact information–I’m talking about information about you. While agents don’t want to hear about your personal life story (unless your book is a memoir), they do want to know a bit about yourself. If you are submitting a nonfiction proposal, they will want to know your qualifications for writing the book. They may also want to know if you have been published previously or are well known enough to have a “platform” of some kind. This step is more important for writers of nonfiction, but if you have had work published or have a platform already, you should still mention it as a fiction writer.

 

After You Write the Query Letter, it’s time to start looking for the agents you want to send them to. Make sure to send each letter or e-mail individually. It wouldn’t look good if an agent got a letter that was addressed to someone else. You should hear back from agents a few weeks after you query. It also doesn’t hurt to mention why you are querying a certain agent (in your query letter).

 

Things You Shouldn’t Do in Your Query Letters:

– Query an agent who doesn’t handle the type of work that you write.

– Being aggressive or too familiar (unless you met them in person and are sure it’s okay) with an agent.

– Pitching more than one book at a time.

– Outlining your entire book. Your query letter should not include how the book ends.

While you are writing your query letter, I suggest looking up some examples on the internet. Just make sure that you don’t copy them–this is YOUR query letter, YOUR book, and YOUR one opportunity to make yourself shine. Copying someone else’s query letter will probably backfire. Be original.

Best luck with your query writing and agent seeking!

 

jncahill_name

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