Saturday, June 9, 2012

So You Think You Can Query (Part 2)

Yodles, everyone. Thank you for not questioning my wordchoices.

So. Querying. Often defined as: that long, painful, slightlymasochistic thing that aspiring authors do to drop that pesky ‘aspiring’ partin their titles. (Here’s a fun fact: I started querying on yesterday’s date,last year. And started getting rejections on today’s date, last year). So Ithought I’d share a few things I wish I had known at this time last year,before I sent out my first batch of crap-queries. I’ve even compiled it into a verynice DO and DON’T list and everything!

  1. Don’t: rush. You probably want to send out ten queries today, twenty tomorrow, and thirty the day after that. Trust me, I know. DON’T. Why? Because once you start getting rejections, you’ll want to sit down and revise your query, then crumple it up and throw it into a virtual trashcan, and rewrite it entirely.
  2. Don’t: send out your query without reading it over at least once or twice. Don’t be an idiot and send out an email without replacing the Dear with agent’s name. Um…not that I ever did that. *cough*
  3. Don’t: use clich├ęs. Avoid them in all writing, but especially in your query. If you start your hook with “In a land of…” or introduce your conflict with “a sudden twist of events,” the agent reading your query will start drooling and reject you in her sleep. (Trust me on this. I used both of those painfully unoriginal phrases in various versions of my query. I will go hide in the closet of shame now).

    1. Do: personalize your query. I can’t stress this enough. It took me over forty rejections to take this to heart. The second time around, though, I researched vigorously and started all of my queries on a personal note. For example, here is the beginning of the query I sent to Suzie Townsend:
    Dear Ms. Townsend,
    As you've expressed an interest in strong female protagonists and different fantasy worlds, I thought that you might be interested in my project, WILDFLOWER, a story about a subject that happens to share a name with your dog: Fate. I hope that the characters and their motives will appeal to the readers of your agency's client, Veronica Roth, though the plot and setting are very different
      Brownnosing? Yes. Successful? Very.Full request in a day. Peruse blogs, hide in the corners of Facebook pages,stalk them on Twitter. Whatever it takes.
      1. Do: have people critique your query. Any feedback at all is invaluable. is fabulous for getting responses. Remember, your query is like a step inside the door. Like how girls always send pictures of their prom dresses/shoes/hair/makeup to their friends before they finalize anything, right? (I have a conspiracy theory that boys do it, too… *suspicious glare at Mark*) That’s what getting critiques on your query is like. Otherwise, your prom date—um, agent—might slam the door in your face.
      2. Do: make sure to make your query yours. Even if you’re following the traditional hook/conflict/bio three paragraph formula, make sure that your query will stand out of the thousands that an agent goes through every month. Make a list of reasons of why your story is different from all of the other ones in your favorite bookstore. Show that in your query.

      What’s that? You want an agent’s perspective on queries, yousay? Well, it just so happens that the fabulous Emily Keyes wrote a blog post afew weeks ago about the queries she accepts/rejects…here. Go check it out!

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