Monday, March 8, 2010

This One Goes to 11: Queries are Hard

As we learned earlier, authors are scared of writing synopses. They're even more frightened of writing query letters, for many of the same reasons. In the synopsis you're trying to boil your novel down into a few pages (or, God forbid, a single page), and they have to be interesting pages. Your query is a paragraph or two that is weighed down with the pressure that it has to be the most interesting thing in the history of mankind in order for the agent or editor to even consider reading the rest of the stuff you sent. Think I'm joking? Sadly, no. For discouraging numbers, read this article. The hard truth is that agents and editors read hundreds, sometimes thousands, maybe even millions of submissions, and then choose only a handful per year. And if you want to be considered, you gotta be good.

No pressure, right?

Thing I have learned #1: Comparing your writing to someone else's is dangerous. It can be rewarding if you're all, "My story is what would happen if Oprah and Marilyn Manson had a baby," because that's a ballsy statement and it might intrigue your reader. But what if your reader really hates Oprah? Then she's instantly turned off. Oops. Besides, even if your reader does heart Oprah, how does that represent your work? Your writing is special, highlight how it's special.

Thing #2: Nobody cares that you won a contest 'cept you. This nearly made me cry when I won my contest, because I was all happy dancing at the conference about being a finalist until this question came up several times, and each speaker shot it down. Even winning a Golden Heart does not an instant publishing contract make. Should you mention your wins? Sure. It proves that someone not related to you through blood or marriage liked your stuff. Can you expect it to be the thing that gets you published? Not a snowball's chance in Hell.

Thing #3: For the love of all that is holy, list your word count! As a NaNoer, I'm word count obsessed, so this was not a problem for me. However, I follow several agents on Twitter (aside: Twitter is invaluable for connecting with other authors, editors, agents, readers, and pretty much anything publishing related) and they hate it when someone doesn't mention the word count. Hate. Flames, on the side of my face... heaving breaths...

Thing #4: Get the name right. Sounds simple, right? Not so much. Are you targeting one person, or the whole agency/publisher? Do you know if that person's a man or a woman? Are you sure? No, seriously, are you? Example: I have the dubious honor of being blessed (or cursed) with a first name that can be either for a man or a woman. I've received lots of junk mail--even work mail--addressed to Mr. Robyn Bachar. And it makes me crazy. Would I buy something from a telemarketer who calls asking for Mr. Robyn? Hell no. Is the person you queried going to seriously consider your book if you didn't even do enough research about them to know their gender? Nope. They're already on to the next email.

Thing #5: Letter writing is a dying art. If you don't already know how to construct a business letter, learn it. After you're accepted and signed and familiar with your agent/editor, then you can throw in smilies and OMGs if you think it's appropriate. This is a pet peeve of mine because I do a lot of online gaming and facebooking and other time wasters, and this exposes me to people who can't form a complete sentence. Now, I'm not perfect by any means, but trying to communicate with someone who speaks netspeak/textspeak/leetspeak makes my eyes bleed. I'm afraid for the future of our nation...

Anyway, those are my thoughts on writing queries. Which I need to go do myself now, so that I can send the next book in the series to my editor. Next time, I'll talk about getting the call (or rather, the email).

No comments: