Friday, October 24, 2008

The dreaded query letter

I spend a lot of time here at Joy in the Journey on discipline in writing, finding the time to write, polishing your manuscript and marketing your writing. What about those writers who have a finished manuscript, have polished it until it shines, and now want to know what to do with it?

Writing is hard work. We have already established that. But getting the attention of a publisher or agent makes writing a book look like a walk in the park.

Just like with the opening hook of your book, you must grab your prospective agent’s or publisher’s attention with a query letter. Most query letters should be less than one page long. These people are busy and only have so much time to wade through your set up. Go to the submissions page of the person you are seeking to represent you and read their guidelines. They are all different. I read four submission pages of some of the top agents in the Christian market and they all want something different.

It’s impossible to write a form letter and expect it to please these people. They will only be annoyed when they realize what you’ve done. So write a great, attention grabbing letter.

How do you do that?

Most everyone will want a simple paragraph describing your proposal or book. Even if you aren’t looking for an agent or publisher, you will need this paragraph. Everywhere you go people will ask what your book is about. It’s much easier to have a pitch sentence to spout off instead of beginning with; “Well, see, it all starts with a young woman who can’t get a job. She’s been drifting for the last few years of her life. None of her relationships work out. She can’t understand why nothing in her life is going right. So, what she needs to do is…”

Your audience’s eyes will glaze over and they’ll probably walk away. I would if I wasn’t such a polite person.

It’s very difficult to condense a full length novel into a pitch sentence and one paragraph. But it must be done. This will save you loads of headaches when you are at a conference and you get an opportunity to speak briefly with an agent over the dinner table or in line for the restroom.

You will never attract anyone with your fantastic book idea without one. And what good is that brilliant book in your hard drive or under your bed if no one ever gets a chance to read it?

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