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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Query Letters

There are two things that have been talked about in the writing of a query letter. Both of which ultimately boiled down to the very basic of all necessities in the life of a writer. That word was RESEARCH.

Now it's time to talk about the bodies of each paragraph in the query letter. What do you put in one? What in the world are the agents and editors looking for? That is without a doubt the magic question. It is one of those that most of us don't know the answer to and yet we toil day after day over the words we write.

From the research I have done, the breakdown is simple. The opening paragraph should have the genre of your novel, title and approximate word count.
For example,
Dear Mr. X,

My name is Joann H. Buchanan I've written a horror novel called Horrors Are Us. The word count is 98,000 words. (here is where you put your hook in a single sentence.) That's it, that sentence is what will make the editor, agent or publisher continue reading.

The second paragraph is your mini-synopsis. I know what you're thinking. Another synopsis? Really, are you kidding me? I mean come on I just spent all day on the synopsis I sent out with this dam thing. I really have to write a shorter one? Yes.

So, here's what you can do. Remember the last movie trailer you saw and though I want to go see that? Think about it for a minute. What was it? Oh yes, it sure was. It was a mini synopsis. Without a doubt, it boiled down the movie in all of 30 seconds and let's you, the observer get immediately hooked on what is being shown at the theater. That is what a mini synopsis is. It is an intriguing look into your novel. It lets you share what the book is about without giving all of the book away. It's basically the back of the book.

Now, here's the kicker. Some agents want to entire beginning middle and end of the book in this paragraph, so choose your words carefully. While others want a taste. In this paragraph, you need to dazzle them with your poetry in motion just as you would in the entire synopsis and your book. Research the agent you're wanting to have take a look at your work. Nine times out of ten, there is going to be an example of what they like to see in the query letter. Without a doubt though, this mini synopsis is going to be part of it. Oh and look we're back to research. Oh man more...yes more.

The last paragraph is where you dazzle yourself and show what amazing accomplishments you've made. Don't lie here. They research also. If you haven't had a publication, don't write anything. Instead thank them for their time and move on. The worst thing you can do is lie.

That's it. The synopsis is finished. What ever you do, don't send swag, used shoes, underwear or any other thing you think will entice the agent or editor to view your work. Instead, send what is in the submission guidelines. Let your work speak for itself. In the long run, if you have a good product you will be picked up by someone.

That is the last post on query letters. If anyone out there has read all the posts about them and has more to share, please do. We can all learn from one another and continue to grow. Above all else, do your research. They can smell a fake a mile away...just like the rest of us.


Norma Beishir said...

Very good advice! My agent told me she knew she was going to sign me when she read my query, but mine broke all the rules, so go figure. They say 1-2 pages. Mine was 3. 1 paragraph to describe the plot. Mine was 4. I didn't even really research how to write a query. In fact, my first submission was written in longhand (in my defense, I was only 16 at the time).

shelly said...

Wow! Great post! Thnaks for sharing.

K. L. Gore said...

The query has always been a challenge for me. Even though mine ultimately succeeded in gaining agents' attention, I look back at it and realize it could be much, much stronger. (That's after putting 20+ hours into it, too!) Great post, Joann!

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