Let me preface this post with the fact that I have received rejections on 4 of the 5 query letters I sent out. I expected the rejections to take longer. Agents are either much faster than their purported deadlines, or my query letter sucks.
I am betting the latter.
I read a bunch more “how to” articles on query letters, and none of them agreed with each other. My take away was that maybe my query letter would be better served if it read more like the back of a book blurb. This may be common sense to some of you more experienced writers, but this is not what the first three articles I read on querying had said.
I spent over an hour recrafting the query letter to sound like the back of a book.
It was junk.
I spent another hour reading through the blurbs for books on Amazon to better familiarize myself with them.
I spent the rest of the evening trying to write a blurb for the back of my manuscript. It was still awful.
After watching me spend most of a night wrestling with this, and being a good sport and taking on extra kid duties so I could keep at it, DH tried his hand at it.
It was way better than anything I had down on the page. I scrapped everything I had and worked with DH’s.
I learned a lot from this process, and it is leading to another round of revisions. With the way it helped me really focus on the story and characters, I’m thinking about writing the query for my current work in process early in the revision stage to see what comes from it.
3 Things I Learned From My Query Letter
- If you’re having trouble crafting the query, there may be something missing from the story. In my case, I was lacking a bit of character motivation for the one character. That’s pretty easy to fix. For the other character, the query process revealed that maybe I didn’t put enough thought into her backstory. The fact that she grew up as a serf in a city ruled by undead would have left more of a scar. Yeah, I know, I know. But I was so focused on telling their story, on the plot and character development in the present. . .Okay, truth is, maybe I didn’t want her to be all angsty and scarred. I can still have that, but I have to earn it. And so does she.
- There is no one right query. It is difficult for me to accept this, but my research suggests that there may be as many “right” queries as there are agents and authors. There are guidelines that need to be followed, but beyond that, I was unable to find a solid consensus on what a query “should” be.
- Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent writing queries. The one DH helped me with is the best by far. And this probably isn’t the last version of the query, but it’s a helluva lot better. I was too bogged down in the minutiae of the story. I had created every word on the page and put it through a dozen or so revisions. DH was able to help me see the forest through the trees, and help identify a need for another rewrite. Which, I will need to do before I query again. Time will tell if the new query helps me get the much desired request for a full manuscript, but I feel like it’s a step in the right direction.