Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Query Blues

As many of you now know, writing a book is only a small part of the battle. When you've decided that the novel is complete and you're ready to put yourself out there to potential agents, you also know that you must have a query to send out first. It's pretty straightforward: Hook an agent with the first sentence and pull them in with 4-5 more. Less is more. Easy.

Or not. Writing a query is like riding through hell on a porcupine. It's a long, uncomfortable process that's a pain in the ass. I'm new to the query letter and trying to get the gist of your book down in a few sentences can be tough. Or really fucking hard. Especially, if your plot is not a "paint by the numbers" plot.

I've probably seen every sample query on the net. They are all different. One site says to do this. Another says to do that. Then I found Query Shark, a blog ran by agent Janet Reid. She gives you specific instructions on the format of a query. You send in your query and maybe she selects and critiques it on her blog. She cuts down to the fucking bone. There's no mollycoddling involved. Nope, she's dead honest and that's why I like her blog. You get to see the queries which made the cut and those which didn't make the cut. Go see for yourself which is the larger of those two categories.

I sent in a query to the shark a few months ago. I think at the time, she mentioned having around 1,700 on the docket, so chances of her ever getting to mine are slim. I'm actually grateful for that. I think I've learned quite a bit about writing a query since then, even if I did read her instructions and followed them. Or rather, thought I followed them- I'm not so sure anymore, after re-visiting her blog. I'm in limbo until she reads it, or it falls into the hand of an agent. It's at that point where I will get the ultimate feedback, in the form of an ass-whipping critque, acceptance or rejection.

I'll finish up with this one point: All agents are different. Research the agent you will be sending your query letter and pages to. Educate yourself on what that particular agent wants and do not be an ignoramus. Even though you may still very well get a rejection slip, at least do yourself the honor of going in with both barrels loaded. After you've done all of that, be patient with the query writing process and do not send it out until it's ready. Your writing career just might depend on it.


  1. Good post again, Mike, and some great advice. I'm in no way near that point yet but all advice from writers in your position can only be good. Good luck.

    Regards, David.

  2. David, if you get the chance, go over to Query Shark and at least read through the critiques. As I've mentioned before, I think you can also learn a lot about your work, just from writing a query.