Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Query Letter

I secretly think that all writers hate these with a fiery passion. Personally, I enjoy the places that are all, "Let the work stand for itself, we don't care about your merit." It might be because I'm lazy, or because I'm afraid what I'm saying won't be good enough...Either way, I hate query letters.

For those of you who don't know, the query letter is essentially the pitch. It says "Hi, I'm Lynne Schmidt. This is the novel I wrote, this is what it's about, and here is my publication record." It also has to say "I've done research, I know what you're looking for, and you're looking for me," without being so pretentious. 

Some places allow simultaneous submissions (you're allowed to submit to more than one agency), some don't. You have so much homework to do before you can even think, "This is where my work is going." It's hard because aside from doing all of that, you have to edit your 190+ page novel and make sure it's perfect so when/if they say "Hey, I'd like to see what you have to offer," you can say, "Okay, here it is!"

It's also hard because some places reject you flat out if you don't have enough publication experience. (Read previous blogs, I'm pretty amateur.) I'm trying constantly to bulk up my resume, but that's also difficult because now I have to edit those stories or poems, wait the 3-6 months for the response period, and then update all of my information. I'm also submitting like crazy to competitions, but I also am lacking funds to be able to do so. All of this tires me out, constantly. 

Key things to have in your query letter:
*Genre--Contemporary, sci-fi, magical realism
*Word Count--Make sure it's complete and polished!
*Correct spelling of agent/editor
*Plot and examples; don't just say "And then tragedy strikes..."--Tell the person what happens, "Then, when X's sister dies in a car accident..." 
*Aim for it to be about 250 words
*Brief bio--"I've had publications in the following literary magazines....I received an MFA from... etc"
*Comparisons to your work--However, DON'T claim to be the next Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, J.K Rowling
*Contact information

Other than that, be sure to read the SUBMISSION GUIDELINES for each and every agent you query. Some want five pages, some want ten, some want none. 

There are two agents I'm looking pretty heavily into right now. Well, really one because she seems amazing. I keep talking to everyone about her as though she's my best friend, when I've never met the woman *that sounds stalkerish, my bad*. I love her personality, her online presence, what she's looking for....it all fits. I want to go to Starbucks with her and drink coffee. Honestly, I would be honored to have her, or any agent. You want to feel like you know these people, like you would have a good WORKING relationship with them.

I'm finding myself constantly wanting to jump the gun and just submit to someone already. But that's stupid and that's how you get rejected. I'm forcing myself to be patient, to look over my query letter when I'm bored and out of work. When I have no creative juices flowing, I edit my novel. When I have NOTHING to offer, I annoy the people I've been sending my stuff to to re-edit.

But, as I stated earlier, I get tired out. So it's time for bed :)


Please know that if you comment and I don't respond, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I don't have wifi, but I do have a bad memory.

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