Queries- what I’ve learned over the last five months...
In March I had reached the point in my manuscript that I felt it was time to start working on my query.
The first thing I did was attend a workshop by author Elana Johnson. Then I downloaded her free e-book (http://www.elanajohnson.com/#!query-to-the-call) and worked through it page by page.
I also read and read and read successful queries (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/ and http://querytracker.net/).
While I researched agents to query I found many of them had query tips. So check around on your favorite agent’s blogs and website to see what advice they supply.
I got to the point where I thought the query was okay I posted it to my on-line critique group. Then I tweaked it a bit more.
I also enlisted the help of Gabriela Lessa (http://gabrielalessa.com/ you can hire her services here).
After all that I entered the query in a contest hosted by Deana Barnhart (http://deanabarnhart.blogspot.com/ ) and judged by Lora Rivera (http://www.lorarivera.com/blog/ ). This gave me the opportunity to read a several more queries and suggestions by other writers on how to make those queries better. (I find entering contests to be a great way to learn the writing craft and meet other writers.)
Finally after many hours, days, weeks, month of working on the query I almost had it. Yesterday morning I determined to finish it. When my head felt like it was about to explode I called my mom, just to have another voice other than my own to listen to.
Then (and I think this step was key) I paced my house talking to Sophia, my main character, and asked her, “What are your main concerns? What is causing you the most conflict in the 90,000 words of your life?” She spoke back and bam the query was finished.
I still have my doubts, of course and I’ll probably fiddle with it here and there and tailor it to each agent I query but the meat of it is on paper. Yay!!
Here is the advice Gabriela gave me:
-Start with a catchy one-liner. Something that really showcases your voice and draws attention to your query
-It's important to showcase your voice in your query.
-Don't tell what the story is about, show it. Make them want to read it!
-After this short explanation of what your book's about, do mention word count and genre (some agents like this first so be sure to follow their guidelines)
-Then you add a personalized paragraph related to that agent. Does she represent an author you love? Does she say in her website that she's searching for a wonderful contemporary romance? Try something like "I love that you're this and that. Because you're X and Y, I think you'd be the perfect agent for this project."
-Then you add a short paragraph with some info about yourself. Really short, just your name and credentials, relevant information only.
And you end with:
- As requested on your submission guidelines (ALWAYS follow the submission guidelines!), I'm pasting below X pages (or whatever they ask for on their submission guidelines). I hope you'll enjoy it. If you need more pages or any more information, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you
Always follow guidelines.
Add at least a little personalized information.
Agents like feeling unique.
What is your query writing process?
What sources have been most helpful to you as you wrote your query?