Friday, March 27, 2009

HOW I READ A SUBMISSION/QUERY LETTER

It is strange to be on the other side of the submission process. For years, I was the one writing and rewriting my queries. Writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting my manuscripts. And now I am the agent, reading and evaluating the words of hard working writers whose hopes and dreams are sent to me in the form of a one page query and a 10 page manuscript excerpt.

After reading hundreds of submissions in the last few weeks, I realize I do not read every word. I do not read in logical order. But I read to absorb the information I am looking for.

When I receive a query and the first 10 pages of your manuscript, as per my submission guidelines, I skim to see if your book is a CB, MG, YA or GN and to discover the genre. Next, I look to see who you are and what you have published in the past. Then, it is off to the manuscript.

Now, why do beeline to the manuscript? There are two reasons. First, I do not want to be influenced by your book's description. I want to experience your book as if I plucked it from a bookshelf and am deciding if I would buy it or not. And second, because a great idea can only get a book so far. It is the execution, the writing that brings a plot, a cast of characters, the soul of a book alive. A quick side note here--When I go into classrooms to teach, I'll give 30 students one prompt, but I get 30 different versions of a story. That is how it is with manuscript submissions. I get a fair share of similar plots outlined in query letters, but the executions of those plots are what determines if I ask for a full or not.

If I love the 10 pages, it is back to the query to read every word plus a quick jaunt over to your blog or website, if you chose to include this information. I may even google you, if you didn't.

So bring on your queries and 10 page excerpts. I can't wait to read them. And I hope this helps diminish query anxiety and increase the effort every writer puts into their first 10 pages.

Happy writing!

PS Just wanted to mention, sorry if I take a bit of time to get back to you but it is because I am reading those ten pages from each and every one of you. Sometimes the first two pages aren't working but your voice kicks in on page three and I can see that with a bit of revision you will have a fabulous book. I send out a fair share of revision requests based solely on those first 10 pages, and I have received fantastic fulls as a result.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

HOW TO WRITE A QUERY LETTER

I'm an odd bird. I like writing query letters.
  • I like to do my research on whomever I am querying and find an interesting way to not only include what I have learned but let the reader know why I chose to query them.
  • I like to sum up my manuscript in a succinct and compelling paragraph or two and show that I know who my target audience is and why.
  • And, I like to talk a little about me.....a little since it is the manuscript that the agent must sell or the editor will publish, and not my past accomplishments.
Agents and editors have blogged about this topic to the point that most of us should be writing fantastic queries. If your query is not a knock-out, then read the following posts and good luck with your rewrite.
  1. Agent Nathan Bransford's THE BASIC QUERY LETTER FORMULA plus 90 more informative posts on how to write a query letter.
  2. Agent Rachelle Garnder's BASIC FORMULA FOR FICTION QUERIES plus 25 more informative posts.
  3. Agent Janet Reid's WHAT WORKS IN A QUERY LETTER plus 85 posts labeled QUERY PITFALLS.
  4. Agent Kristin Nelson's TOP 5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE YOUR QUERY STAND OUT plus 85 more informative query-related posts.
  5. Agent Lucienne Diver QUERY DOS AND DON'TS.
  6. Agent Jessica Faust's A QUERY OVERVIEW.
  7. Agent Colleen Lindsay's QUERY DISSECTION, WHY I MAY HAVE REJECTED YOUR QUERY, and WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN YOU GET A REJECTION plus 77 more helpful query posts.
  8. If you are interested in seeing queries critiqued, be sure to check out QUERY SHARK and Editorial Anonymous' QUERY CLINIC.
  9. From the Harold Underdown's fabulous PURPLE CRAYON website, Jacqueline K. Ogburns' RITES OF SUBMISSIONS: COVER LETTERS AND QUERY LETTERS
Now that you've written your killer query, follow the legendary Miss Snark's advice: Write well, query widely. Ignore anything that says otherwise.

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