Friday, November 12, 2010

My Query Letter Writing Process (warning: content may be hazardous to your eyes)

How's your query letter writing going, Melanie?

@#$%!#%@$%&*%^@$%!@#$!#$%#$%^, but thanks for asking.

Seriously, this is torture. Who would think that writing a 90Kword novel would be easier than a 300 word letter about the novel??? I only got two words to say to that:

Fuck. Me.

Excuse my language, but working on this letter makes me want to spew shit that only a potty mouth from the inside of a portable bathroom at a barbeque showdown would appreciate.

I have researched and read and researched and read anything and everything to do with query letter writing. I have even read the research about reading the research about researching the reading and writing of query letters! (did you actually get that, cause I think I lost myself there). I have also been lucky enough to receive some wonderful help and feedback from a very talented author and I still can't seem to get it right! But therein lies the problem: I refuse to give up. I will continue to torture myself until I have fried every last neuron in my brain in writing the perfect, eye catching, word hooking query letter I can. I mean, it's not like giving up is an option, right?

Okay, thanks for the vent. Time for my 1,856th attempt at this letter.




  1. Oh man, I do not envy you, Mel! It was absolute HELL writing my query letter. The best advice I got was to go with a short blurb and rely on my first five pages. I tried it both ways - a longer query that captured the voice, but was not "traditional" and the short blurb. The voice-y letter got nothing but rejection. The blurb got three requests for fulls. Hang in there! It will come! Be sure to take lots of breaks in between versions so you see with fresh eyes.

  2. Funny enough you should say that, Joann. I was just reading a few posts over at query shark and I'm not trying a much less is more approach. I might lose a little of the "voice" but if I can focus on hooking the agent enough for them to read the first five pages/first chapter, they will see that the voice is strong in the novel. I'll give it a go and see how it comes out. Thanks for sharing what worked for you. It's interesting because you read so much about voice in query letters and yet it wasn't what helped you in getting agented, but the opposite. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I have had good success with the method of starting with a one-sentence blurb, then you do a one-paragraph blurb, and then a 2-3 short paragraphs blurb. The advantage is that you might need each of these at some point, and you'll have them ready. It also makes you zero in on what is actually essential.

    So why didn't I do mine this way earlier this week? IBesides being a dumbass, I needed a one-page synopsis, so I started there. And promptly got caught up in the "if I tell them this, they'll need to know this . . ." I had to set everything aside and I'll be picking it up again tomorrow to start over.

    I feel for you! I even posted the way-too-long version on AW, only to be told it's way too long. Sigh.

  4. Thanks Angelica for your wonderful advice as well. I'm going to finish up what I'm trying now and then try that as well. I think it's extremely important to have those blurbs in your head anyway to help explain in a sentence or 2, what your story is about. I saw your post in AW, but you seemed to go in there knowing it was too long and got the advice that has lead you now in a different and hopefully better direction. It nice to know that I'm not alone in this frustration! Thanks :-)

  5. At some point (not sure if you are their yet), I'd say just send it out to a few agents and see what happens. You might be surprised and get a request.

    I wouldn't try it with your dream agents though. Best of luck. At least you know about QLH!

  6. Thanks MJA. I'm definitely not there yet as I'm waiting for feedback on my MS from my last two BETA readers. I have decided I will probably wait until the first of the year to begin sending out the query letter, but I guess it depends on how much revision work is suggested by BETA readers 3 and 4 and how soon I conquer this letter. I know I could just try sending it out and see what happens, but that's not really my style either. I'd rather get it right and know I put my absolute best forward. I've learned a lot since writing my first novel and sending my last query letter. I'm trying to do it right this time :-) Thanks for commenting!

  7. Hey Melanie - Sorry things are a bit mucky for you at the moment. Hang in there, it will get better.

    Have you ever read The Marshall Plan for Getting Your Novel Published?

    Marshall is an agent and has a few books published from his point of view.

    Wishing you much success and peaceful moments.

  8. Thanks Whisk for the successful and peaceful wishes. I need them :-) Thanks also for the info on the book. Any chance there are Cliff's notes on that book? :-) Seriously, thanks for the suggestion.

  9. Getting Your Novel Published is a very fast and easy-going read. Just a good refresher kind of read. Hang in there. I know you'll get it.

  10. Query letter writing is HELL. I feel your pain. I went through many, many versions and in the end I still don't think my query was great.

    My advice? I echo Joanne: keep it short. Inject as much voice as you can while still keeping it short. Make sure the hook is clear. Yeah, I know, easier said than done. And I echo MJA: when you're ready to query, send the first few to your non-dream agents for a test drive. If you get bites, you'll know it's working. If you get crickets, you'll know to keep working on it.

    Also, trust your instincts. You know your genre. Would YOU read your book based on your query? I had a lot of conflicting advice on mine and in the end I went with my gut. Wasn't the world's greatest query, but it worked.

  11. Thank you so much, Jen. I actually got my query letter down to 250 words!! So that's a start, right? I think it's getting there. I have gone with the less is more approach and I think I've managed to still keep some strong voice in it. I've also been given some great advice about sticking with one, main inciting event from the story and go with that, so that's what I've done. I'm getting there and I think it just helped to vent my frustrations and then hear that I'm not alone. I haven't even run this through QLH, but I'm scared to because I feel like you get such conflicting suggestions that you don't know what's right and what's right. Like you said, gotta go with my gut in the end.

  12. Just posted a 261-word revision of mine on AW; did you post yours yet? I'm working on a timeline where I'll be querying in 2-3 weeks, so I'm a little more crunched.

  13. Hahaha. I'm sure you'll do great. :-)

  14. Good luck Angelica. No I have not posted it yet. I is scareded :-)

    No tight timeline here. Still waiting to receive my MS back from betas #3 and 4 and then depending on what their suggestions/comments, I'll do some edits/revisions, then I'll be ready to query. I was planning to query at the beginning of the New Year. But we'll see. Could be earlier. Who knows.

  15. Thanks Fickle for the encouragement :-)

  16. I'm not querying yet but I'm terrified of that stage in the process. Good luck with's ok to step away from it for a few days if you need to :)

  17. Whoever said 'to experience is the best form of learning' was actually really right! I learned way too much from trying and failing. :P

    On a more positive note, I'm at the same stage you are in my wip, but for the third WIP. :D I wish you the best of luck, sometimes I read the backs cereal boxes for commerically succinct ways to word things. (too weird, maybe?)

  18. Thanks Hayley for the support. I will be there for you when you are pullingyour hair out of your head :-)

    Michelle, So true. And I don't think that's weird. I think it's as cool and unique as you are. :-)

  19. I will be at this point someday- hopefully sooner rather than later, and I have everyone's hair-pulling, head-bashing posts on this matter and I have decided when it comes to my time I am going to purposefully take some joy in it!

    Perhaps it will work.

  20. Hugs. :=) You already know my thoughts and sympathies. Will talk later.

  21. ha.

    i wrote 8 different versions for my last MS. it kept coming off like a synopsis and not a query.

    it's painful all right.

    janice's blog has excellent posts about it. except for she actually manages to make it sound relatively easy. huh.



    will check out my email soon!

  22. I'm very familiar with this pain. And have reached the same two-word conclusion as you.

  23. Ha! Thanks Adam for stopping by. I would say I'm glad I'm not alone, but it kills me to know that others are going through this Devil's Lair with me :-)


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