Sunday, January 23, 2022

A Week in Writing #388 - More on Query Letters

Hope everyone is staying safe, boosted, and, of course, writing.

I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon working on my least favorite writing activity, the query. It was prompted by an email from someone I had connected with, I believe, through one of the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conferences (see, those do pay off). The email provided a fairly easy template for what should be in a query letter.

Since I try to educate where I can, and since it was sent free of charge to me, I'll pass on the magic:

  • Query letters are read by interns who are trained to delete most of the hundreds of queries they get a day. Only if nothing stops them do they take the time to think about asking for a closer look at your book.
  • Your query letter must be SHORT, at most 350 words. Your query is only to whet the appetite and get your book’s actual pages into the agent’s hands.
  • Copy this format! Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • 1st paragraph – if you don’t have a STRONG connection with the agent (we met in New Orleans when we shared a cab to the airport), don’t bother buttering her up with what clients she represents that you like. It’s not necessary, and they don’t care that you like their other clients. Your first sentence should include genre, title and length. Allow the intern to delete it right away if she knows you’re not selling what the agent is looking for.
  • Second paragraph: Short blurb.
  • Third paragraph: Bio – don’t add more than what is strictly relevant to this agent. They don’t care that you have an MBA unless that directly relates to this book, or that you’re on any special committees. They do care about relevant degrees, relevant awards, and any publishing credit (be judicious about self-publishing credit. Unless you’ve sold a hell of a lot of books on your own, best to leave it out and bring it up later, when they’re dying to represent your book).
  • Don’t pitch more than one book, even if this one is in a series. Instead, if it is a series, simply say at the end of the first paragraph, “This is a standalone novel with series potential.”
  • Do use the closing verbiage word for word. Their time is valuable, and “All best,” is a little secret handshake that shows you know the business. (Never “All the best” – no one knows why.)
  • If you’re not getting at least a 5-10% request rate (partial or full), something is probably wrong with your query letter. Get a second opinion.

I rewrote mine based on this but I have not trotted it out so to speak. I will be doing that later this week.

In the email, the suggestion was to visit to look for possible agents. I did this and found 99 agents who say, or who at least the website interprets, to handle the genre. Of those, about 40% were duplicates of ones that I had previously found using Querytracker and MSWL. That left me with 61 new agents to add, which sounds pretty good. But, wait, the number is a little lower as about a third of those (17 to be exact) say they are not open to queries at this time. Still, I'm 44 names up on agents to try, so I would say it was a productive afternoon.

On the subject of queries, I did send one out on Thursday, which makes two for this year. And, no, no response so far.

Since we're on the subject of my nascent Crime fiction writing career, I did do some more work on fka Skylar. I'm up to 24,564 words, and, yes I know that's not 1000 words a day, which is a goal, not a reality.

Changing the subject, our artist on Powers Squared came down with COVID recently and appears to be making a full recovery, so that's good news. She still managed, even though I stressed she didn't need to, sent up inks for pages 13-16 for Issue #20.

My son Trevor was our guest on our podcast On the Air with Powers SquaredIt's a relatively short podcast this week, as there isn't all that much difference between lettering Issue #19 and the other 18. I just wanted to complete the circle and talk to all of the creatives involved with the issue, of which he is an important one.

I worked on a new review this weekend, You Can't Get Away with Murder (1939), a B-film that the lead, Humphrey Bogart, wasn't able to raise above middling fair. You'll have to wait to read my review, again, I don't know when.

On the subject of Trophy Unlocked, this past Wednesday, the review was Paul's for the video game Shantae and the Pirate's Curse for the Switch. Saturday morning, was his review of Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, a sort of companion piece to my review last week of Arsene Lupin.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing, and I'll see you back here next week.

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