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dsoul700
01-17-2013, 07:29 PM
Is there really such thing as 'a perfect query letter'?

The reason I ask this question is that I've been tinkering with a query letter of mine, and I've given it to various editors to look at it and see if it's all right or not, and they each kept giving me contrary words that often conflict each other, as well as what my book is about. It's almost as if they expect me to write to query letter before I even began work on the novel.

amschilling
01-17-2013, 07:40 PM
At 50 posts, you can put the query letter up in QLH in the Share Your Work section. You can look through the query letters and stickies there right now. That'll answer your question pretty quickly: no, there's no perfect letter, and no, you'll never get a consensus on whether it's 100% right.

There are guidelines that generally work, and some excellent folks in QLH who've got a track record of helping people get results. I highly recommend reading through the posts, because by reading as people go through the process, you'll see why certain things work and don't. You'll also see how sometimes writers focus on the wrong things in the book for the query, and how to identify that and get things pointed in the right direction. It'll help you with your own query, and any questions you might have on it, immensely.

quicklime
01-17-2013, 07:50 PM
Go to Hell.

Well, Query Letter Hell, when you hit 50 posts.


There, you will get even more advice you will likely consider to be conflicting...but you will also get the chance to discuss it, and most likely you will see most of it doesn't conflict after all. But you gotta get to 50 posts, and while you do that, I highly recommend you spend that time in QLH critting other work. Why? It helps, and you may not be able to say everything, but you should be able to get used to reading pitches analytically. Also, if you actually read the whole threads, you will see a lot of suggestions, re-writes, and discussion by folks who do a lot of this. Folks with a good track record on fixing queries. If you want to learn queries, I am not convinced there is another site, workshop, or program that can do better for you, but you gotta put in the time to make it work.


as for the original question either you believe a "perfect" query letter gets the job done, which is one way to interpret it, or you believe in perfection as some absolute, and there are no absolutely perfect query letters any more than there are perfect novels....although some do far better than others.

JSSchley
01-17-2013, 07:59 PM
as for the original question either you believe a "perfect" query letter gets the job done, which is one way to interpret it, or you believe in perfection as some absolute, and there are no absolutely perfect query letters any more than there are perfect novels....although some do far better than others.

QFT.

Also, many query letters that *do* get the job done contain elements that the accepting agent doesn't like. I found just such a blog post one day, and now I'm mad that I didn't bookmark it, but the agent specifically pointed out that one section of the query was completely unnecessary, yet the rest of the query was strong and so that section didn't deter her from requesting, and then eventually offering representation for, that manuscript.

"Perfect" is the one that works. And I can't tell you how beneficial it was to my own query that before I posted one for crit, I forced myself to do 50 crits (not just 50 posts). By then I could see the gaping holes in my own work, gave a better version to my peers in QLH, and they helped me get it even shinier.

Agreed with quicklime--go to Hell. :)

Cyia
01-17-2013, 08:53 PM
Your query is perfect when it accomplishes what it's intended to do -- it gets the agent to request pages of your novel.

katci13
01-17-2013, 09:03 PM
It's almost as if they expect me to write to query letter before I even began work on the novel.

That's actually not a bad idea. I've heard of writers doing this because their agent is going to ask for a blurb-like summary anyway, sometimes before they've even started.

I still thought it shouldn't be done until I actually tried it out. Because the story isn't finished, it's not bogged down with all these cool elements I want to squeeze in and I can stick better to the heart of the story.

But there is no perfect query. Don't try to be perfect. Just write the best most intriguing thing you can without going crazy. I read successful queries all the time (I literally go hunting for them) and not a single one of them has been "perfect" as in nothing couldn't be improved upon. They were "perfect" as in got the job done...for a particular agent(s). Because not every agent will like it. I've read queries that I thought were fabulous and showed them someone else who thought they were poo.

And I posted a query in Hell once that most people thought had some issues still and one person thought it was great and ready to go out. In that case, always go with the majority. ^_^

mayqueen
01-17-2013, 09:07 PM
I've started to write query letters as I conceptualize and begin work on a novel. It helps me keep in mind the stakes and the character arcs. I like it!

And no, there's no such thing. Just like there's no perfect novel. (I know, I know, heresy.) So, what Cyia said.

Corinne Duyvis
01-17-2013, 11:07 PM
Everyone has different taste in books, and thus in queries. I can write a mind-blowing query letter--tightly written, incredible hook, original concept, to the point, writing credits out of the wazoo, and I'd still get rejections because some agents will go, "Meh. Not really my thing." Or they just sold a book just like it. Or the market isn't great.

Point is, you're not trying to sell your query letter, you're trying to sell your book. If your query letter is professional and accurately represents your book--tah dah! Perfect query letter.

The real problem is making sure your book is something they'll want to read & represent.

Cyia
01-17-2013, 11:23 PM
Writing a query before the novel's done isn't a bad idea. It keeps you from wandering down subplots by default. If they don't exist yet, you can't include them.

kaitie
01-18-2013, 12:40 AM
I'm another person who thinks it's good to write the query letter first. It doesn't have to be perfectly worded or anything, but it's a great way to get a feel for the main conflict and the hook and all those things, which helps keep the focus when writing.

Granted, I'm an outliner, so I'm not sure how well it would work if you were a pantser. If you don't know the story until it's written, it'd probably be a lot harder.

leahzero
01-18-2013, 12:45 AM
Nope. There's no perfect novel, and there's no perfect query letter. They're forms of art. People will react to them with great bias and subjectivity.

Welcome to the writing world!

Windcutter
01-18-2013, 08:42 PM
Writing a query before the novel's done isn't a bad idea. It keeps you from wandering down subplots by default. If they don't exist yet, you can't include them.
This. So much this. It turned out that when I couldn't write a rough query for a potential novel--I ended up having problems with the plot. It might be related to my plotting method, though. I'm a planner who absolutely must have a strong idea of the core concept but doesn't dig deeply into details.

Corinne Duyvis
01-18-2013, 09:27 PM
Dittoing the query-before-book approach. Love it, love it, love it. It really helps you keep track of the novel's main conflict and hook.

mellymel
01-19-2013, 05:29 AM
I just recently did this (writing the query before starting the novel). I had never done it before but I had an idea for the next story plot I wanted and writing the query actually helped me hone in on the focus of what the story will be about (and it also helped me to see some parts that I already want to change).

Doesn't mean the query won't change by the time I finish the novel (I'm a pantser so things ALWAYS change as I write my stories), but it really gave me a good focus on it.

Also, re: the perfect query, you can totally have the "perfect" query for your story, but it doesn't mean the agent is the perfect agent for that story. ;)

Bushrat
01-19-2013, 06:50 AM
The real problem is making sure your book is something they'll want to read & represent.

This.

Phaeal
01-19-2013, 10:10 PM
You don't need a perfect query letter, just a good enough one. Where "good enough" means that it interests agents enough to read samples or request material.

To complicate matters, what's "good enough" for one agent will be "meh" for another. This is why you have to keep hitting desks until you hit the right one.

Getting no bites at all? Query's not good enough.

Al Davis
02-05-2013, 05:32 PM
I also have been advised to go to Query Letter Hell but, as a newby, I can't find it. Would someone please provide detailed directions to hell for a simple minded new fish. I'd appreciate it.

idontknowwhatimdoing
02-05-2013, 05:54 PM
I also have been advised to go to Query Letter Hell but, as a newby, I can't find it. Would someone please provide detailed directions to hell for a simple minded new fish. I'd appreciate it.

Scroll down from main page to AW writing lab, click share your work, password vista, click query letter hell.

Cyia
02-05-2013, 05:54 PM
Go down to a section called "Share Your Work." When you click, it will ask for the password, which is "vista". (It's no secret, just a block to keep bots and non-members out.)

Once you're inside the SYW area, you'll see another list of forums. QLH is near the top.

dsoul700
02-09-2013, 04:46 AM
Another question: if an agent or two turns down a query letter because they say/feel the work isn't good for them, does that go against the letter not being effective enough?

Polenth
02-09-2013, 05:45 AM
Another question: if an agent or two turns down a query letter because they say/feel the work isn't good for them, does that go against the letter not being effective enough?

Lots of form rejections with no requests means the query isn't working, but a couple of rejections doesn't tell you anything.

(Comments like "This is not for me" are form rejections. Some of them are worded to sound like they might be personal, but if it doesn't mention specific details from your book, it isn't. All these say is no. Don't read meaning into them outside of that.)

The Otter
02-09-2013, 08:52 AM
There's such a thing as a bad query letter and a good query letter, I think, but no--there's no "perfect" anything, meaning there's no query letter that will universally appeal to everyone. What one agent likes, another will dislike, because they're human beings with individual personal tastes.

A couple of rejections doesn't necessarily mean anything. It might not be the query letter putting them off; it could be that the story itself isn't something they're looking for. Or it could be that it sounds too similar to something else they represent, or they're in a bad mood that day, or any number of other things.

I'd say if you get 20 or more rejections, then you should probably try a different approach with your query. But nothing about it is an exact science.