Here are some quick tips for when you write your query letter (or open a blog): don't use a bad pun.
In previous blog entries, I have chronicled my journey through finishing my first fiction book—a young adult sci-fi superhero adventure—and the litany of wild emotional rides that comes along with writing a full-length novel. During this time, I enjoyed showcasing fellow authors in spotlight features, which I look forward to reviving. Despite completing my story’s draft, the turbulent trip is far from over. Now comes the big boss level of any writer's trials: the query letter.
Since this is a scribe-centric blog, chances are if you’re reading this, you are all too familiar with the daunting feat of not only sending your precious work out to online strangers but also the beastly task of composing a killer query letter. While this blog is more of a journal than an advice column, I try to impart whatever wisdom I have to offer as a rookie writer. In all honesty, the main thing I bring to the table is solidarity because the process of getting anyone, even within your friends and family circle, interested in reading your tale, well, kind of sucks.
I have scratched the surface of submitting queries, and here is the breakdown of my method. I am not out to reinvent the wheel when it comes to selling my idea and myself. I do, however, need to flip my script, so-to-speak. Modeling after success has been my go-to move throughout writing my manuscript, so that’s the approach I took for knocking out the dreaded query letter. If nothing else, I will be able to revisit this blog long after the fact and think, man, what an idiot! There’s a good chance I’ll think this regardless of my success, but let’s do this!
No “real” credits? No problem. Skimming my About section will show my writing history, but it’s slim pickings when it comes to bonafide publications. The only picking is a proverbial tumbleweed. I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished creatively, but I technically have nothing to list professionally. The solution? Keep it simply simple. The main goal is to sell the hook, right? Your author bio will let the literary agent know all they need to of you if they even request one. In my deep dives of Googling agencies, I’ve seen a couple of submission guidelines that don’t require anything about you personally. They’re rare from what I’ve seen, but it’s a good idea to read their rules carefully.
To eliminate any further redundancy, I’ll gloss over the tedious details because if you’re setting out to write your query, you’ve already perused the how-to sites of experienced authors and agents. Instead, I’ll tell you this: have multiple synopses ready—long, short, one-sentence elevator pitches, as well as with-and without-plot spoilers. I agonized for a solid month, perfecting my 178-word, no-spoilers synopsis. I am delighted with how it came out, but that joy was derailed when an agency’s requirements needed none of it. I saw requests for shorter rundowns, including spoilers and many other detailed—and less detailed—descriptions. This agency is a perfect fit for my novel, so I deemed restructuring my entire strategy a worthy endeavor. It was a giant pain, but I’m glad I have multiple options of not only my synopsis but my bio as well.
Expect the unexpected. One thing that stuck out to me out of all the advice blogs is that agencies know you are sending out multiple queries. It’s implied. Unless there is something specific that is necessary to mention, I’d omit anything that goes without saying, such as you’ve always had a passion for writing, even as a third-grader. Like my stand-up days, we all know someone said you’re funny and should do an open mic. Unlike comedy, though, I actually encourage newer people like myself to give fiction a go.
This experience may be old hat for many people, but to me, it’s happening for the first time in real-time. Treating this blog like the digital time capsule that it is, I will reflect on this in the future and think, man, what an idiot! I will also think, I’m really happy that, no matter what, that idiot stuck with it.