Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A great query is worth...

A million words. Well, not really. But at least 70k. (Or however long your manuscript is.)

The query is what will get your foot in the proverbial agent door. Or get it slammed in your face. With no personal offense intended. I wish I could say that my first query was amazing and landed me an agent. That, however, would be a lie. It wasn't the worst query in the world. It got a partial request from my "number one" agent. Unfortunately, my writing wasn't where it needed to be and I got rejected. Four months later. And it was exclusive. Ouch.

So I edited my book, and revised my query. I got some more requests. Then I got more rejections. Rinse and repeat. Over and over. When I got that first partial request, I was sure I'd made it. I was going to be the next Stephenie Meyer with 14 rejections and one yes and a 6-figure deal within months. Ha ha. Ha. When I hit the year mark of sending out my first queries, and I was still querying, my bright eyed hope had worn just a bit thin. To say the least. It ended up taking me over two years to get an agent from when I first started querying. So let me share some tips I've learned along the way.

Since it would take too long for one post to go into all the details about tricks and tips I've learned for querying, I'm going to do it one post at time. I will also tell you more about my journey to getting an agent as we go.

Key component #1: Make sure your query actually sells what you claim to be selling. Does that make sense?

Let me try to explain. If you say your book is a paranormal romance, but half of your pitch paragraph(s) focuses on your MC's hard home life and her desire to escape her town and how she was teased mercilessly as a child... oh oh. Rejection. The MC's love interest should be in the first sentence if it's a romance. Second sentence at the absolute latest. The paranormal element better be disclosed right away. The conflict to their romance is your hook. And that is pretty much the whole enchilada. Your query should ONLY show the part of your plot and the hook of the MAIN genre you're pitching it as--aka, if it's paranormal romance, you pitch the romantic plotline and THAT'S IT.

I was very guilt of trying to do too much with my queries. My plot is just so amazing and complex, I can't whittle it down that much! I have to explain more or they won't get it! I have to show the agent how many stunning subplots are woven into my main theme! But! But! But!

No, you don't. Agent will be thinking, "Huh. I thought this was supposed to be a paranormal romance, but it doesn't seem like the romance is even a main part of the plot. I'm already confused, so... pass."

So that's hint #1. Keep it basic, and stick to your genre in the query. If it's fantasy, you pitch the fantasy. If it's horror, you roll out all the gruesome hookiness you can. (Yes, hookiness is a word. I promise. Okay, not really. But I'm an author, so I can make words up. Right?)

Let the agent discover your subplots and deeper themes gradually as they read your amazing manuscript--after they request it because of your simple, concise, and awesome query.

Since I'm headed off to FLORIDA you may not get the next installment of this until ten days from now. However! I have a couple of awesome guest posts lined up to help inspire and motivate you until I return. I hope you enjoy their posts as much as I did! Until then, have a great 4th of July and I'll be back before you know it. :-)


Kristine Asselin said...

Great post, Sara! Also, very encouraging to hear that, although your journey to get an agent was longer, you got there in the end!

Patti said...

This definitely gives me hope. I'll be back.

Unknown said...

Great point!

Kathryn Rose said...

Great advice! It's so good hearing these types of experiences from people who've finally gotten their agent! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm working on a query now, so I love this advice, and look forward to the rest. Enjoy Florida!

Lisa K. said...

Thanks for a great post. I'm in the process of querying and I'm ready to drink in all the advice I can get. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is such a great post!

"Make sure your query actually sells what you claim to be selling."

Before reading, I did not realize this. I'm applying it to my query now. Thank you!