Some might say it’s cruel and unusual and I’m not in the mood to disagree. I have been battling – and I mean battling – with my query letter for some weeks now. I wrote the first one, sent it off to five agents and waited for the offers to roll in. I had done my research, I had written what I knew was a great book so it could only be a matter of time.
Two hours after I emailed agent #5, I realised I had made a mistake
Guess what? You can never do enough research. While I was writing ‘the book’ I did a bit of reading around the edges about what the next steps were. Then I did some edits and polish and declared the book complete and immersed myself in the Internet and reference books, working out how to write that perfect query letter. But did that stop me from not realising that 142 k words was too long for a novel? No. No, it didn’t. After I had sent of that first batch of query letters I found and started to read Query Shark and there the lovely Ms Shark googles at word counts over 115 k (in fact, the ‘accepted’ word count of fiction is between 80k to 100k).
Always with the more research
But a little thing like realising I’d written two books instead of one wasn’t going to deter me. I went back and edited the be-jeepers out of my script and- hey presto! It actually reads *much* better now! Where did all those words go?!? (Many of them have gone into the sequel, actually, but that is literally another story). Then I went back to read the queries submitted to Query Shark with a mixture of elation that I’d found some answers and utter fear of being ‘that query’ (okay, there was a little bit of schadenfreude in there, too, but I’m only admitting to a smidge of that!). I also read everything I’d read before about queries and agents. And then I started to read some of the many agents who blog to pick up any advice that might help. And I realised that the word count was not the only thing wrong with the first letter I sent out.
So then, how do you write that perfect query that will get you the agent of your dreams, will unlock the keys to the golden gates of publishing and will ultimately propel you into the upper echelons of authorly acheivement?
There is no such thing as a perfect query letter
I can say that now with perfect clarity and authority. Even though I have no agent and have not been published I know that the perfect query letter does not exist. How? Because every agent is looking for something different. And not only that, each agent may be looking for something different from one week to the next. And not only that – each publisher is looking for different things. And not only that, but each publisher is looking for different things from one week…well, you get the picture.
You know, that’s not as helpful as you might think
I know. How does this new knowledge help? Should I give up? Should I encase my work in concrete and bury it? No. I’m not going to do that and neither should you. Because there is hope….
A new hope?
No, not that one. A different one. The hope that, if you are careful and can construct an interesting and meaningful query and send it to the right agent at the right time, it will herald the start of a beautiful and beneficial relationship.
Tune in next time for:
- What agents say they want in a query letter
- What agents say they don’t want in a query letter
- What to do while you’re waiting for the replies
- How to cope with rejection
- Suggestions for organising your queries
- So you’ve written your query letter – have you done your synopsis yet….?
In the meantime are there any stories you would like to share about the query process or any advice you want to offer? Maybe you found an agent via a query – in which case would you like to share your query letter?