Writing fiction has never felt like work to me. It gives my mind the chance to wander and play. So if writing fiction is like a recess, then query submissions are the exams.
Anyone who can write a novel should be able to write an exciting query letter, right? I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s the pressure of exam time. Maybe it’s harder to find those perfect words when they’re limited to just a few. Still, it’s something we have to do if we want to traditionally publish our books and find the perfect agent.
There are a lot of websites out there filled with advice on querying. Nathan Bransford is one of the best for general advice. Query Shark is a fun way to learn how to catch an agent’s eye because Janet Reid, the agent behind the shark, publishes real, live query letters and rips them to shreds while showing what was done wrong (or sometimes, right).
One way to tackle the query letter is to come up with a few general sentences about the book before writing it. Then everything doesn’t have to be siphoned down afterwards and the resulting blurb can act as an outline.
When emailing query submissions, it’s best to email them to yourself first so that you’ll see if any formatting issues come up. Especially if you’re copying and pasting, some email programs may add double or triple lines or may not recognize paragraph breaks and of course these things only happen after the email is sent.
For anyone querying or researching agents, these publications by Agent Noah Lukeman are free on Kindle: How to Write a Great Query Letter: Insider Tips and Techniques for Success and How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent. After reading through those and other publications, stalking the above websites, and attending a query letter writing class during a recent writer’s conference, I just might be able to find those magic words. Maybe.
Have you found the magic words to describe your novel? What’s the best querying advice you’ve received? What has the querying stage been like for you?