Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Query Letter

Sometimes the process of professional author might seem glamourous--isolation to madly type out a manuscript, having an editor weep with joy over a perfect story and becoming a New York Times Bestselling Author (NYTBA).

But one of the less glamourous aspects of being a professional author is writing a query letter.

After the manuscript (which is what a book is called before it is published) is completed and polished and made the best the author can get it, she needs to pitch it to either a literary agent or an editor, to entice them to want to take it on and get it published.

Since agents and editors are rather busy making books happen, they don't have the time to read literally hundreds of mansucripts in hope of finding that gem among the dross that they want to bring to publication. Instead, they ask for query letters.

Query letters are brief letters asking (or querying) an agent/editor if they'd be interested in this particular book. They go something like this:

Dear Snookums,

Maisie Marvel's dreams of being a superhero are shattered when she flunks her final exam in Superhero School. She mopes as all her friends receive superhero job offers from places like Big City and Capitalville. When Maisie has all but given up hope of steady employment, a mysterious letter arrives.

Sam Snide has offered Maisie a job as the sidekick of a supervillain.

Maisie is torn. She's always wanted a job that uses her super talents, but she always expected to work for the side of Justice and Decency. What Sam Snide is offering her is... not so decent.

Maisie must decide: be a super or be a hero. It appears she cannot be both.

NOT SO SUPER is a YA fantasy novel complete at 80,000 words. It would appeal to fans of  "Fashion Guide to Outer Underwear" and "Hobroken".

I'm a debut author who attended the superhero school Sky High and know first-hand what it's like to compete in the superhero job market.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Mighty Heidi

Query letters aren't easy to write, as one is condensing down a full-length novel into, oh, 250 words or so. They are a bane of many an authors' experience.  Novels are easy. Query letters are hard.

Every author knows about Query Shark, that kindly finned fiend friend who critiques and helps authors write a good query letter. Simply reading the Sharkives helps an author improve their poor, ragged pathetic excuse of a query letter into something that just might hook a sale.

The Beatles song "Paperback Writer" (performed here by the B-52s) is about a query letter (and a poor one at that).

Her Grace has written several query letters. Some of them have actually worked.

1 comment:

Celia Reaves said...

For some reason this post didn't show up in my feed until today. Sorry for the late response, Your Grace! I haven't reached the query stage yet, being just in the first revision pass on my novel, but I am already a devoted fan of Query Shark. I know that when I get to that point I will be much more prepared thanks to the wisdom collected there. (By the way, I would TOTALLY read Not So Super based on that query!)