Sunday, November 4, 2012

Query Hell

I did a post several months ago about queries and how difficult they can be. Since then, I've gotten a lot of emails from people wanting help with their queries, I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about queries again, as I know there are a lot of writers obsessing over that dreaded query right this second.

One of the hardest things to do other than writing a query, is actually critiquing a query without reading a story, so whatever advice you get, keep in mind that without someone reading your novel, they don't know the ends and outs like you. Does that mean you should discount their feedback. Absolutely not, but you should be able to take their advice and tweak it with you own extensive knowledge of your book.

During my writing career I’ve probably sent well over 150 queries. Yep. You read that correctly. Some of those queries were for agents, others for the agent to submit to editors. I’ve written a total thirteen, unique queries for different books. Each of those thirteen has been rewritten so many times I cringe to even think about it. Out of all those rewrites, there’s only one query that I’ve ever been truly proud of and that was CURSED.

Here is some advice I can give you on writing the query.

  • Start off with your synopsis. And trust me, that sucks worse than a query, but typically you can pull a query out of a synopsis. Also, if you can’t write a synopsis for your book, you’re not going to be able to write a query. Why? Because you either don’t know your book well enough yet or there’s flaws in your book that still need to be worked out.
  • Make sure your query has your character’s voice. You query should read like your book.
  • Write your query in first person. GASP.  That was the Internet gasping at that suggestion. Keep reading. Writing your query in first person can help you get into your character’s voice. Once you have your query finished, go back and change it from first person to third person. Now the Internet can calm down. It’s a trick that’s worked for me.
  • Have unbiased, complete strangers reader your query. Not your beta partners. There are forums like Query Tracker that is a great place for this.
  • Rewrite your query until your eyes bleed. Don’t be like me and submit the very first version of the query you’ve written. It’s embarrassing.
  • Once you’ve written and rewritten your query and submitted your query, the next thing you need to do is prepare yourself for rejection because it’s going to happen. Some of the most popular writers have been rejected dozens and dozens of times. It’s just the nature of the process. 

      There isn't one perfect way to write a query and no one person can tell you how to do it. I kind of compared queries to the Big Mac sauce. No one knows quite what's in it, but they have their theories. In the end, it taste damn good. So it's a bit talent, bit timing, and a bit luck.



Ann Finkelstein said...

Thanks for the tip about writing it in first person first then switching to third.

Deirdre said...

I really like the first person-third person switcheroo! Great idea...and embarassingly I have more than double that number sent out and nada, nada, nada. So I really do need the advice! Happy weekend!