Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Braving the Query Quest

I just sent out my first query. What, you ask? You are part of a writing blog and haven't even sent out a query? I know, I know! I feel kinda lame admitting such a thing, but there you have it. I'm a writer who is not as far along on the journey as others, but am loving every minute of it and want to share what I've learned.

I had several Alley Cats show me their queries and listened to their admonitions that no two queries are alike. Okay...so what do I do? What are the steps to writing a query?

First: Go to the agent/publisher website and research their submission guidelines. This is a must. You must know if the agent or publisher you are targeting are even looking for your genre. Plus, each agent or publisher will have different guidelines in sending in a query. Some might want you to skip the query altogether and send in a chapter and synopsis. You just never know; so be smart, do your homework, and only send in what is asked for.

Second: Whittle your story down to one paragraph. Yes, I said one paragraph. To me, this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. But if I can do it, then so can you. Introduce your main character, include their goal and the obstacles preventing them from reaching their goal. And above all else, leave them wanting more. Think back cover copy here. Summarize your book, whetting the appetite, and leaving the reader hanging--begging for more.

Third: Here's where you talk details about your book, like word count, genre, and type of market your book is geared toward. Tell a little about yourself and give your credentials: number of years writing, conferences attended, memberships, contest wins, etc. They want to know that you are invested in the writing journey and not one to melt under the pressure of publication.

Last: Make sure you thank the agent/publisher for their time and consideration. It's the polite thing to do.

In doing my research on query letters, I found that that there is no "correct way" to do it right. You research, you write it, then you send it off. Personalities and "bad days" will play into whether or not you will get rejected or accepted. You just need to remember that God is really the one holding your future in His hands. His timing is everything!

For all you seasoned writers out there:  What did I leave out? 

This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is wife to "Pastor John" and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.


keiki hendrix said...

Such a great post! Love that you said God has my future. As writers, like many other professions, we sometimes get caught up in placing our faith in the "five sure fire steps to publication"mindset leaving no room for God to do what He does best.... Surprise us with blessings. Said a little prayer for success in you query.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Brava! You have taken a giant step forward along the writing road by sending off that query letter.
Your post showed two aspects of the writing life:
1. We all start off as beginners, needing the help of others who are farther along the writing road. Hey, there's always someone farther along the writing road who knows more than I do.
2. One of the best parts of the writing life is learning from one another -- helping each other out, sharing what we've learned.
May God bless the work of your hands, Sherrinda!
(Psalm 90:17)

Jessica Nelson said...

I don't think you left anything out. Sounds good to me! Best wishes girlie! And start sending out more. I like to start mine with a batch of five. *grin*

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Sherrinda, I'm proud of you! I am not yet at the point of being ready to send out queries, so I don't have anything to add. Only that you're post was great. I'll say a prayer that your query gets into the hands God wants it in. Thanks for sharing what you've learned! I'm cutting and pasting this post. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Keiki! I have to keep reminding myself that God really does have my future in His hands. I just need to do what I can and enjoy the journey, regardless of the outcome.

Anonymous said...

Beth, I think one of the biggest blessings of this writing journey has been finding wonderful friends along the way. Writers are a generous bunch and I love the camaraderie.

Anonymous said...

Jessica, you send out in batches of 5, huh? That's sounds like a good number! I've got a question for you...or anyone else, for that matter. Are there some agents that don't want to be queried if you are querying others? Kinda like some publishers don't want to look at multiple submissions?

Anonymous said...

Jeanne, I'm humbled that you would save this post! I was at a loss when I was researching and writing my query, and really felt inadequate in writing the post. But, alot of us are like me...a little green and unsure, and I figured it'd be okay to put what I learned out there. Somebody can always correct me if I am wrong! :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Kudos on taking that first BIG step, Sherrinda! I wish you well.

Casey said...

Snicker. Sherrinda, *I* haven't submitted! Now I'm the only one on the Alley who hasn't. Just don't forget me when you all become rich and famous!!


Mary Vee Writer said...

Whoa there, Casey, I'm playing a duet with you. I haven't sent a query yet either. We're getting there, though. I plan to mold my footprints into theirs.

Pepper said...

YAY!!!!! SHerrinda!!!!!!
Celebrating with you!

And, The Writers Alley was started by ASPIRING writers - which means we're all in the 'seek and ye shall find' phase :-)

Except Krista - now- who has moved on up to "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of editing" ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well Casey and Mary, this next year is your year to submit! We have to rack up some rejections, don't you think? ;) I've got my file ready! lol

Anonymous said...

Pepper! I always love your encouraging words!

Poor Krista, has to edit, edit, edit. I wonder if editing is easier when you know you are getting paid for it?

Krista!!!!! What say you?

CP Brooke said...

Thank you for your informative advice Ms. Ketchersid. I am responding to a RT> from a KM Weiland tweet.

Like you I carefully target and select the literary agency & agent, then I put as much attention in writing the query as I did in writing the book. Although I am a first-time author I also compose music (for film & TV) so I have been submitting creative works for professional release since I became a quadriplegic in 1994. I have only sold one work in 17 years, a music short for the MTV series, 'Undressed')

Since I put the fact right up front that I am a shut-in due to my disability the conclusion that my disability matters in all the rejections is inescapable. Two lines jumped out at me in your post: "They [the agencies] want to know that you are invested in the writing journey and not one to melt under the pressure of publication," and "You just need to remember that God is really the one holding your future in His hands. His timing is everything!"

Literary agents are entitled to know everything about me in order to make a decision and (if you can accept my assurance that I am not wanting for talent) I cannot participate in the usual promotional methods, then maybe those agencies are justified in basing their rejections solely on my condition, even if in doing so they are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Finally if, as you say, my future is in God's hands, then the conclusion is also inescapable that God is constantly testing my faith. After all, if my talent is truly a gift from God (as I have always believed it to be), then by denying me an audience I must be doing something that meets with God's disapproval, right?

I have another "perfect" agency in my sights but I have been waiting for my current depression to break before I begin writing the next rejected query.

So the question I have for you: should I not mention my disability in the query if only to see whether I get a response or keep up my stubborn honesty knowing it will just result in another rejection?

~ CP Brooke