PDA

View Full Version : Query Letters & New Writers



danrupe
03-06-2012, 08:15 AM
Without having a list of previous work and experience to sell, what's the single most important thing for a new writer to mention or do in a query letter to try to get the attention of an agent?

CharacterInWhite
03-06-2012, 08:36 AM
Pitch the story.

You have no writing credentials other than the thing they are reading right now.

Make it good, and they won't care about your publishing history or lack thereof.

hillaryjacques
03-06-2012, 08:59 AM
Write a clear, intriguing pitch of a unique story, and writing credentials won't matter.

Good luck!

Filigree
03-06-2012, 09:03 AM
Even when you have them, your writing credentials won't matter as much as the query letter itself.

Drachen Jager
03-06-2012, 10:09 AM
Step 1: Write an awesome manuscript that has commercial appeal.

Step 2: Write an awesome query letter that clearly shows that the project has sales potential.

Step 3: Rake in cash from publishers.

Easy as that. If you can do #1 effectively, #2 becomes relatively easy and you can move on to step 3.

quicklime
03-06-2012, 05:20 PM
write an excellent query, and have a manuscript to back it up......there is no "one thing" to include, you just need to do the query very well, and same for the book.

danrupe
03-06-2012, 11:44 PM
Thank you so much for the feedback. It's good to know the quality of a query letter has value, because it's definitely something I can control. Without the experience to back me, I'm inclined to think my submission already has a strike against it so I'm thinking the rest of the submission has to be as flawless as I can make it.

quicklime
03-06-2012, 11:51 PM
Thank you so much for the feedback. It's good to know the quality of a query letter has value, because it's definitely something I can control. Without the experience to back me, I'm inclined to think my submission already has a strike against it so I'm thinking the rest of the submission has to be as flawless as I can make it.


being a bit flippant, but you don't believe anyone is born with prior publications, do you? everyone starts out new. Having a prior publication is a feather in your cap, or a bonus point, but it isn't a requirement.

Drachen Jager
03-06-2012, 11:55 PM
Just make sure your query letter passes through Query Letter Hell (in the Share Your Work forum)

danrupe
03-07-2012, 12:46 AM
being a bit flippant, but you don't believe anyone is born with prior publications, do you? everyone starts out new. Having a prior publication is a feather in your cap, or a bonus point, but it isn't a requirement.

It's good to hear that it's not seen as a requirement. I can't say I wouldn't mind having that bonus point, tho ;). Hope springs eternal.

@Drachen - Will do!

Cyia
03-07-2012, 01:07 AM
It's good to hear that it's not seen as a requirement. I can't say I wouldn't mind having that bonus point, tho


It's not always a bonus point. If a quick Google search pulls up a history with a lackluster(as in scam) press, or a doube-digit-selling self-published novel, or a novel that was commercially published and still didn't sell well, then you're better off with the clean slate of a name with no baggage behind it.

Seriously, though, unless you're an above-the-title super-seller, the story's the thing. That's all you have to remember.

Drachen Jager
03-07-2012, 09:34 PM
It's good to hear that it's not seen as a requirement. I can't say I wouldn't mind having that bonus point, tho ;). Hope springs eternal.

@Drachen - Will do!

It took me two novels and a year and a half of writing to get an agent. I'm a little over two years in to my writing 'career' (is it a career if I haven't made any money yet?) and things are looking strong on the publisher front, though no offers yet.

All it takes is hard work, talent, luck (and not being distracted too much by the internet :) )

danrupe
03-08-2012, 03:51 AM
and not being distracted too much by the internet :)

you spyin' on me, bro?!? that just ain't right!

Jamesaritchie
03-08-2012, 04:49 AM
Without having a list of previous work and experience to sell, what's the single most important thing for a new writer to mention or do in a query letter to try to get the attention of an agent?

Write as well in the query as you do in your book. Tell the story as well in the query as in your book. Use the same quality of language in your query as in your book.

Don't tell anyone how good your book is, or how well you write and tell a story, show them.

Brigid Barry
03-11-2012, 02:08 AM
If you don't have writing experience then you don't have writing experience. When I say "experience" I mean "relevant" experience.

If you write fantasy and you are a member of the RWA that's not relevant. But if you're writing Romance as an RWA member, then put your membership. If your novel is about a fireman and you are a fireman, then put that. Etc.

Otherwise put "thank you for your time and consideration" and have a kick butt 250 words to sell your story.

You get those kick butt 250 words by reading Query Shark and the stickies on the Share Your Work, Query Letter Hell boards.

danrupe
03-11-2012, 11:10 AM
Thanks, KateM, I'll try to find those 250 words. Sounds very helpful!

Kitty27
03-12-2012, 12:03 AM
You get those perfect 250 words by grinding and then letting others with no mercy and more experience read it.

My partner Roly,in her oh so sweet way,destroyed a query letter that I was quite convinced was the shit. I mean she broke it DOWN!

After I finished sniveling,I swallowed my immense pride and worked on that letter for two months. It has gotten me the stats in my siggy.

I hate query letters and hate(J/K. I'm just extremely jealous) writers who can write them in their sleep*shakes fist angrily*

For some of us,it's more work. But it's worth it. I second everyone's advice here.

Stacia Kane
03-12-2012, 01:47 AM
Thanks, KateM, I'll try to find those 250 words. Sounds very helpful!


I can't do much more than ditto the others who've said the ms and query matter way, way more than credits.

But I do want to let you know that Query Letter Hell/Share Your Work has a fifty-post minimum requirement; you have to have 50 posts on AW before you can post your own work for critique (this is so we all have a chance to get to know you a bit and vice-versa).

The best way to get those posts, aside from your genuine participation here, is to critique others! Pop into QLH/SYW and take a stab at some queries and samples already up. :) Critiquing teaches us a ton about successful writing and what works/what doesn't; it's amazing how much you can learn by viewing the work of others with a critical eye and then applying that to your own work.

Give it a try!

danrupe
03-12-2012, 08:16 AM
@Stacia & @Kitty27 - Great advice! TY!

I always equated queries with cover letters, but I'm learning they have some very important differences (e.g. showing only relevant experience, sample writing more important than experience [this thread], no real benefit to customizing, etc.).

Once I get to the 50 posts and build up some courage, I'll post on SYW and get some specific feedback. I am learning loads from just reading posts and other works.

Colossus
03-17-2012, 08:35 AM
Offer them food.

priceless1
03-17-2012, 06:23 PM
Make sure your query letter has the following:
1. Intro your main characters

2. Intro their conflict/dilemma – I’m talking personal conflict, and it has to be something big. Stubbing one’s toe is not a dilemma.

3. The choices facing the main character – what will happen based on the decisions they make?

Also make sure to include your genre and word count.

Bufty
03-20-2012, 03:58 PM
A cover letter simply lets a recipient know who sent the relative enclosure(s).

When writing the Query letter remember to get to the point, be clear and brief. If the Agent has specific requirements follow them.

Don't rabbit on about everything and everyone in the story from A to Z. Focus on the main character's objective and predicament. How everything gets resolved is not important.

The Query letter's sole function is to grab and hold the Agent's attention long enough for him to want to see how you've handled things and he can only do that by requesting the manuscript and synopsis.

Enclosing the opening few pages won't do you any harm but make sure they are as good as they can be -and that the manuscript and synopsis are also ready for submission if requested.

Browse the Query Letter Hell forum threads - particularly the stickied threads, and the responses to other folk's submissions.

Good luck


@Stacia & @Kitty27 - Great advice! TY!

I always equated queries with cover letters, but I'm learning they have some very important differences (e.g. showing only relevant experience, sample writing more important than experience [this thread], no real benefit to customizing, etc.).

Once I get to the 50 posts and build up some courage, I'll post on SYW and get some specific feedback. I am learning loads from just reading posts and other works.