Which is more difficult to write? Novel or query? No prizes for guessing! It has to be the query!! I discovered that writing a 80,000 word novel was so much easier than writing a query. I would like to share my learnings for the benefit of others who might be in a similar position – now or later.
It starts with perspective. Get the big picture and get it fast. Before I started writing, I only knew “query” in the context of it being a “question”. Little did I know that it was such an important part of the submission process. If the query is not seen/read and liked by the publisher or the literary agent, your book will never see the light of day. Period. This says it all. Unless, of course, you have loads of influence in the publishing industry or choose to take the vanity/self-publishing route. This establishes the importance of the query.
I assume you are writing one book at a time and hence have one query. Your target audience is flooded with hundreds at any point in time. Yours simply has to be a stand out to get noticed and acted upon favorably. Otherwise it joins the large and ever growing number of rejects. Dashing off a business like letter rather than a chatty one is simply not enough. The secret is to make the agent want to hear more about your novel. The query is not to tell her the whole story- that comes much later. The query is to get her to ask for more- of the story, silly!
Getting the query to its optimal length, which should be no more than one page they say, is a major challenge. You need to edit like you have never done before. When I now see the first queries I wrote, I can’t help laughing at my own effort! The latter drafts look unrecognizable if you place them next to the first attempt which looks, so very, how shall I describe it…… naive! There’s a lot of stuff on how you go about writing a query, what it should contain, what it should not and so on. I have learnt one thing for sure: the only way is to polish it until it seems perfect to you.
A mistake I made was to dash off a few fueled by sheer enthusiasm. Don’t do that. There is a lot of etiquette involved in the querying process and bugging people with your ceaseless flows of queries is right up on top of the ” No-No” list. If you have already dashed off one to someone who actually deserved a better version, it’s just too bad. Don’t try to make up for the lapse by offering to send ” a new and improved version”.
The internet has ever so many resources that offer help on writing a query. Here’s one from the Fiction Writer’s Connection that you might find useful.
I have shared a few of the lessons I learnt. If you have some to share, jump right in.