Well, folks, it’s that time of year again. It’s the season of querying!
If you are a published author or one of the millions of aspiring to-be-published authors, you know of which I speak. It’s the process where you take over a year’s worth of work, struggle, pain, joy, and basically birthing-out-your-brain-hole and try to condense it down to three short paragraphs.
Along with your three paragraphs, you also need to connect emotionally and spiritually with the target of your query letter, knowing all about that person’s personal tastes and sense of humor, but without seeming stalkerish or full of yourself. It’s great if you can reference how that person’s favorite books are like what you’ve written, name drop one of their clients, and squeeze in mention of a few of the prestigious literary awards you’ve won in the past three months. Don’t forget to explain how you’re the only one who could have written what you’ve written, include a brief bio, and remember to thank everyone for their valuable time, but don’t waste too much of their time including a line about that. And keep it to about two hundred and fifty words.
Ok, type that up everybody.
Writing a query letter that succinctly describes your work is a difficult task. Tailoring that letter to the personal tastes of a complete stranger is a bizarre hazing ritual literary agents have honed to perfection.
Now, if you happen to be an agent reading this (Hey! How you doin?) please understand I’m just letting off a little steam. Many agents share some of the hundreds and hundreds of query letters they get a day and I am flabbergasted by what you have to dig through just to find even one possibly sane author who has contacting you for representation. I don’t envy your job at all. I just envy the authors that got through to you. If I could build some kind of reliable filter that would keep out the complete junk from an agent’s email box, I’m pretty sure I could write my own ticket in New York City.
Querying my third manuscript, I’m getting a nice response so far. I know how to write a query letter. I know what not to say and I know mostly what needs to be said, but I still find it extremely difficult to connect on a personal level with someone I just don’t know. If my query to you, dear agent, feels slightly impersonal, it’s because it is. I’m not, but it is, because we still are. My hope is, if you love my concept and love my writing, we can work together, and then we’ll get to know each other.
And that’s when the fun will really begin.