3 Things I Learned From My Query Letter

Let me preface this post with the fact that I have received rejections on 4 of the 5 query letters I sent out. I expected the rejections to take longer. Agents are either much faster than their purported deadlines, or my query letter sucks.

I am betting the latter.

I read a bunch more “how to” articles on query letters, and none of them agreed with each other. My take away was that maybe my query letter would be better served if it read more like the back of a book blurb. This may be common sense to some of you more experienced writers, but this is not what the first three articles I read on querying had said.

I spent over an hour recrafting the query letter to sound like the back of a book.

It was junk.

I spent another hour reading through the blurbs for books on Amazon to better familiarize myself with them.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to write a blurb for the back of my manuscript. It was still awful.

tree-trunk-569275_1280
Some idiom about forests and trees . . .

After watching me spend most of a night wrestling with this, and being a good sport and taking on extra kid duties so I could keep at it, DH tried his hand at it.

It was way better than anything I had down on the page. I scrapped everything I had and worked with DH’s.

I learned a lot from this process, and it is leading to another round of revisions. With the way it helped me really focus on the story and characters, I’m thinking about writing the query for my current work in process early in the revision stage to see what comes from it.

 

3 Things I Learned From My Query Letter

  1. If you’re having trouble crafting the query, there may be something missing from the story. In my case, I was lacking a bit of character motivation for the one character. That’s pretty easy to fix. For the other character, the query process revealed that maybe I didn’t put enough thought into her backstory. The fact that she grew up as a serf in a city ruled by undead would have left more of a scar. Yeah, I know, I know. But I was so focused on telling their story, on the plot and character development in the present. . .Okay, truth is, maybe I didn’t want her to be all angsty and scarred. I can still have that, but I have to earn it. And so does she.

 

  1. There is no one right query. It is difficult for me to accept this, but my research suggests that there may be as many “right” queries as there are agents and authors. There are guidelines that need to be followed, but beyond that, I was unable to find a solid consensus on what a query “should” be.

 

  1. Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent writing queries. The one DH helped me with is the best by far. And this probably isn’t the last version of the query, but it’s a helluva lot better. I was too bogged down in the minutiae of the story. I had created every word on the page and put it through a dozen or so revisions. DH was able to help me see the forest through the trees, and help identify a need for another rewrite. Which, I will need to do before I query again. Time will tell if the new query helps me get the much desired request for a full manuscript, but I feel like it’s a step in the right direction.

 

3 thoughts on “3 Things I Learned From My Query Letter

  1. These are very good lessons. I’m not entirely surprised that everyone wants something different.

    I will mention that the quick turn around on your responses might not be about the letter, it might be about the agent. Are you looking for the right agent? Did you pick ones that are all full up? You’re picking them from the book right? Have you tried looking at some comparable works and looking up the agents for those authors?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that. I used my subscription to Writer’s Guide to get a list of agents. I then go to the agent’s website to get more information, including more specifics on submitting, what each agent wants. etc. I have just started, so I haven’t queried any agent that states that they get most of their authors from convention or referrals.

      I have also avoided any agents that don’t take email submissions.

      I hadn’t thought of finding the agent of other authors in my genre as I figured they’d already be full and not open to new authors. Might be worth trying., though. They clearly know how to sell what I write!

      Like

      1. I think you’ll still need to use the writers guide to get information about them, and it sounds like you’re making good checks. But I think it might be worth looking to see who those agents are.

        Like

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