Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tipping the Balance: Writing the Query Letter

For the aspiring writer seeking representation, there's never been a more information-rich environment than now. Blogging agents post exactly what they're looking for, provide examples of query letters, and tweet about their pet peeves. For some writers, this is glorious. For others, overwhelming.

I am not here to provide tips or examples of query letters. Better women than I have done so for you. Sites that I have found particularly helpful include the following: Peruse them, study them, examine them. And, of course, feel free to add more sites or links or advice in the comment section.
  • Kristen Nelson: the rest of the examples are on right-hand side column under Agent Kristin's Queries: An Inside Scoop
  • Lynn Flewelling's query letter on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America site.
  • Both Janet Reid's blog and her Query Shark site, which includes the following advice.
    • Just so you know: a query MUST contain:
    • 1. Who is the protagonist?
    • 2. What choice does s/he face?
    • 3. What are the consequences of the choice?
  • Charlotte Dillon's website contains samples as well
What I would like to do, however, is pass on some advice I garnered from a talk that Catherine Fowler gave at a conference this past year. Although the Redwood Agency is looking for "for high-quality, nonfiction works created for the general consumer market," literary agent Catherine Fowler provides invaluable advice for any author looking for representation.
  • Do your research: know similar titles and prove that there is a market for your work. If you haven't read anything recently, do an Amazon search, then skedaddle to the nearest library. You really do need to know what's going on out there. Don't forget Donne: No man is an island.
  • Read acknowledgements in similar titles and add to your notes on possible agents or contacts. You might also then reference the book in your query. (Well, unless it's Harry Potter or Twilight or something too obvious.) Agents work hard to get books published, and they don't take on work unless they really believe in it.
  • Reference recent New York Times "hot topic" articles and write, "As evidenced by a recent article..." This lends credence to you and proves you're willing to do the extra work, be informed, and actually care about what's going on in the "real world." Why is this important? Well, as you already know, the writing world is chock full of writing prima donas who insist their novel is "art" and should be taken for what it is: inspiration.
  • Compare & contrast: Yes, you want to prove that there are similar books out there, but you don't want to leave it at that. Twist it around and show what's unique and different. Explain how your Novel Y is like Novel Z, but then elaborate on how it is different.

Best of luck with your query letter writing endeavors. And do let me know if you've been successful. I'm always up for posting Query Letters that Hurdled the Gate!

26 comments:

MG Higgins said...

Great suggestions! Thanks for the links, too.

Research Writer said...

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lisaframe said...

Very nice post on writing the query letter. Those are my weak points and I am trying to build that skill up to a more comfortable level.

Fantastic suggestions~

Michele Thornton said...

This is a nicely succinct summary of many things I'v read (and tried to incorporate) into query letters!

RalphBrau采男 said...

向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

承蘋承蘋 said...

Joy shared with others are more enjoyed.............................................................

陳韋夏陳韋夏益東富益東富 said...

期待你發表的新文章!跟你說一聲加油。............................................................

陳韋夏陳韋夏益東富益東富 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

陳韋夏陳韋夏益東富益東富 said...

休息是為了走更長遠的路,爬個文章休息一下!!............................................................

劉士賢 said...

幸福不是一切,人還有責任。............................................................

珍盈洪 said...

做好事,不需要給人知道,雖然只是一件微不足道的事,但我相信,這會帶給我快樂。..................................................

家唐銘 said...

愛,拆開來是心和受兩個字。用心去接受對方的一切,用心去愛對方的所有。......................................................................

恭吳丹恭吳丹 said...

你不能左右天氣,但你可以改變心情.................................................................

建鄭勳建鄭勳 said...

人有兩眼一舌,是為了觀察倍於說話的緣故。............................................................

家唐銘 said...

愛情不是慈善事業,不能隨便施捨。......................................................................

于庭吳 said...

感謝分享 功德無量............................................................

牧宇 said...

期待你的下次更新喔^____^..................................................

翊翊翊翊張瑜翊翊翊 said...

及時行樂-快樂不需要理由............................................................

孫邦柔 said...

好熱鬧喔 大家踴躍的留言 讓部落格更有活力..................................................

SadeRa盈君iford0412 said...

好的部落格就要和好朋友分享--感謝分享..................................................

偉DimpleHolloway043昀 said...

來打聲招呼-大家好!!!..................................................

Charlie said...

As the writer of the world's worst query letters, I appreciate any tip I can get. Thanks Alex

Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

Great advice!!! You have a fabulous blog! I want to award you the Brilliant Writer Blog Award for all the hard work you do!

Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.
~Deirdra

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