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Cwright
11-20-2013, 10:15 PM
Without having an published works under your belt, what's the best way about writing a query letter?

Is it to simply be short, direct, and get straight into the plot line and thank them for their time?

Does anyone have success stories of landing an agent without any prior publications they can share and what worked for them?

I find this stage difficult because I feel like I have nothing to offer from previous work, but I do have a darn good story now and many others in the works ya know?

cornflake
11-20-2013, 10:23 PM
Without having an published works under your belt, what's the best way about writing a query letter?

Is it to simply be short, direct, and get straight into the plot line and thank them for their time?

Does anyone have success stories of landing an agent without any prior publications they can share and what worked for them?

I find this stage difficult because I feel like I have nothing to offer from previous work, but I do have a darn good story now and many others in the works ya know?

Visit Query Letter Hell, under the SYW section here. Password is vista. There are plenty of stickied threads, links, and a whole lot of queries being worked on.

stormie
11-20-2013, 10:30 PM
Aside from visiting QLH here and reading through the stickies (and you really should do that), yes, you can land an agent without any prior publications. I found the queries that worked best for me, and got the most positive responses (and ultimately landed an agent), were short and to the point. One paragraph about the story (with word count, genre, and title), one about me (I did have a few short stories and essays published at that time), and a "thank you for your time" paragraph. If you have nothing published, skip the "about me" paragraph.

Kerosene
11-20-2013, 11:02 PM
Like stormie said, you don't need previous publications to get roped in. It used to be like that in past, or it was hard for a first time author to get a novel out there, but nowadays it doesn't matter one bit.

What you need is: A good query letter, a good opening, and a good book that will make anyone want to read it.

- Make sure you've hammered at your novel enough to bring it as close to perfection as possible.
- I suggest you drop your first chapter into the SYW section to get critiqued--this could really save you in a hundred different ways. If needed, revise and rewrite your opening and/or your entire book.
- Read all the stickies in QLH in the SYW section, and post your query. READ THE STICKIES, FOLLOW THEM. Clear enough?
- Then gather a list of agents who work in your novel's field and start querying them.

To post your work in the SYW section you need 50+ posts, but you can post as you wish right away. Please do not do the "mad dash to 50" or "one liners to fifty" in order to meet the mark. Take your time, there's no rush.

Quickbread
11-21-2013, 01:37 AM
I would also add, once you're ready, don't query every agent under the sun at once. Small batches of 6-10 are best. It may take you several (or more) iterations of your query and your novel to find an agent, but you can only approach them fresh once. So don't squander all your opportunities with a weak query or novel, just in case you find you're not as ready as you thought you were.

I say this as one of those authors who wasn't as ready as I thought when I first started querying. It took me several years, several versions of my novel, and countless query versions, to get agents interested. Now, I finally got one and have to rewrite the novel again. :)

And I agree, you don't need publication credits. I would write a short bio anyway in the query, just so agents have something to hold onto. Wasn't it Pam Van H. who said "The Hook, The Book, The Cook" is the outline for a good query letter?

Query Letter Hell is the best hell you'll ever go through. Good luck!

wampuscat
11-21-2013, 01:57 AM
Visit Query Letter Hell, under the SYW section here. Password is vista. There are plenty of stickied threads, links, and a whole lot of queries being worked on.

This.

Also, read QueryShark and do some research about agents and their likes and dislikes on their websites, blogs, AgentQuery and QueryTracker.

Unpublished writers sign with agents every day. Ask me how I know. :D

GingerGunlock
11-21-2013, 03:32 AM
This.

Also, read QueryShark and do some research about agents and their likes and dislikes on their websites, blogs, AgentQuery and QueryTracker.

Unpublished writers sign with agents every day. Ask me how I know. :D


Yes, QueryShark.


And....how do you know? ;)

nadja1972
11-21-2013, 04:15 AM
This is excellent advice.


I would also add, once you're ready, don't query every agent under the sun at once. Small batches of 6-10 are best. It may take you several (or more) iterations of your query and your novel to find an agent, but you can only approach them fresh once. So don't squander all your opportunities with a weak query or novel, just in case you find you're not as ready as you thought you were.

MJRevell
11-27-2013, 03:31 AM
Without having an published works under your belt, what's the best way about writing a query letter?

Is it to simply be short, direct, and get straight into the plot line and thank them for their time?

Does anyone have success stories of landing an agent without any prior publications they can share and what worked for them?

I find this stage difficult because I feel like I have nothing to offer from previous work, but I do have a darn good story now and many others in the works ya know?

I didn't have any previous publications when I queried my agent. I mentioned my degree and my journalism, but no fiction credits.

Just write a solid query. I find three paragraphs is best, in addition to a personalised opening. HOOK, PROBLEM, CLIMAX/CLIFFHANGER.

As others have said, Query Shark is good. Just play around with a query until you're happy and send it out.

Also make sure your three chapters make the reader NEED to read on.

Perks
11-27-2013, 03:40 AM
You've gotten lots of good advice here and it sounds like your plan of getting to the point and being courteous and professional is solid footing.

I just wanted to add my name to the group that had no prior publishing credentials before getting my agent and book deal. It happens, so don't worry about that.

Best of luck!

Persei
11-27-2013, 03:50 AM
Ha, I've been wondering this. Since I've finished my fifth draft, it has very minor issues and I think it'll be ready within six months, I used my free time to research around for a while and seriously... I felt like it's an impossible task for someone like me who's underage and didn't graduate from high school yet (I won't graduate by the time I set to start submitting, either) because of the god damn about me paragraph haha

Glad to know I can skip it if I haven't done anything worthy of notice.

Quickbread
11-27-2013, 05:24 PM
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure if you're a minor you'll need to share that info in your query. But if your query and manuscript are kick-ass, it could also work in your favor.

Persei
11-27-2013, 05:42 PM
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure if you're a minor you'll need to share that info in your query. But if your query and manuscript are kick-ass, it could also work in your favor.

From what I've researched, the agents and publishers (in Brazil) never include birth date in the info you are supposed to share with them in a query letter/first contact. The info they ask for is mostly e-mail, phone number, the sort of thing they'll use to get in touch with the author.

But even so I feel obligated to share this information as soon as possible because maybe they have guidelines for this kind of situation.

I can see this working in my favor however I'm not confident about my novel (it's just too big and complicated for a first time writer to get it right, I think) which is why I don't exactly want to disclose I didn't even get out of high school yet. I'm afraid they'll ignore my MS because of this. :poke:

Old Hack
11-27-2013, 10:44 PM
If your book is good enough to be published, your age will be a great hook to hang some publicity on.

If it's not, your age is immaterial.

However, your age does introduce some complications into the mix, so yes, you should at least consider mentioning it in your query (I would). The reason it's not usually shown in the list of stuff you should include is that it's very rare for people of your age to query, not because it's not useful information.

Phaeal
11-29-2013, 05:24 PM
If you have no prior pubs, you can skip from the "story pitch" part of the query right into the "thanks" paragraph, unless:

Your background, profession, education, etc., relate directly to your subject matter, as in:

Your book is set in Greater New Flibberstan, where you were born and raised. (Note: the more exotic the background, the more relevant. Saying your book is set in America and you were born in America won't have quite the same impact, I fear.)

Your book is about Navy Seals. You were or are a Navy Seal.

Your book's premise concerns the latest developments in dark matter research, and your academic interest is or was dark matter physics.

Some agents do ask for a bio paragraph. So do write one for insertion into letters to those agents. Keep it short and as snappy as you can make it. A touch of humor might not be amiss.

juleswriting
12-03-2013, 12:28 AM
This may be a stupid question, but to those of you that say don't send a lot of queries at once - how do I know if my query sucks? I've sent out about 35-40 queries, had two requests for fulls and a lot of "positive" rejections. Part of my question is - should I take the "nice" rejections with a grain of salt? I've had a rejection that specified they "read with a lot of interest" and I have "quirky voice and engaging narrative" - is that good or just sugar-coated BS? I don't know what to believe.... :(

cornflake
12-03-2013, 12:40 AM
This may be a stupid question, but to those of you that say don't send a lot of queries at once - how do I know if my query sucks? I've sent out about 35-40 queries, had two requests for fulls and a lot of "positive" rejections. Part of my question is - should I take the "nice" rejections with a grain of salt? I've had a rejection that specified they "read with a lot of interest" and I have "quirky voice and engaging narrative" - is that good or just sugar-coated BS? I don't know what to believe.... :(

Unless it's a personalized rejection, it's a form letter and means nothing.

juleswriting
12-03-2013, 12:49 AM
What's a personalized rejection? I can tell they're not coming from a general address, but rather from the actual agent's email address. Although I suppose it could still be a "form." I almost wish someone would just be honest and say "this sucks - re-write it completely!"

Old Hack
12-03-2013, 01:27 AM
It sounds a lot like a form rejection to me.

A personalised one would discuss aspects of your book and would show that your work had been closely read.

If you've only had form rejections, then it's possible that your query needs to be improved.

Kevin Nelson
12-03-2013, 03:18 AM
This may be a stupid question, but to those of you that say don't send a lot of queries at once - how do I know if my query sucks? I've sent out about 35-40 queries, had two requests for fulls and a lot of "positive" rejections. Part of my question is - should I take the "nice" rejections with a grain of salt? I've had a rejection that specified they "read with a lot of interest" and I have "quirky voice and engaging narrative" - is that good or just sugar-coated BS? I don't know what to believe.... :(

If you've gotten two requests for fulls out of 40 queries, you're doing reasonably well. Plenty of authors never get that far.

I can't tell how encouraging your rejections are without reading them in their entirety, but the number of full-manuscript requests you get is probably a much better benchmark of how you're doing.

Quickbread
12-03-2013, 03:52 AM
I think that percentage is a bit low. 10-15% request rate would be pretty solid from what I've heard. It's hard to tell for sure, but if you know you're hitting the right agents (i.e. people who rep works similar to what you've written), you should consider passing your query through Query Letter Hell and just make sure no red flags go up. It's amazing how much a query revision can help your request rate. Then at that point, it's up to your pages and the manuscript, of course.

(And you do paste the opening five'ish pages below your query -- or attach them for snail mail queries, right? The actual pages will always weigh more to an agent than the query, as long as it's clear you have a grasp on the overall story.)

cornflake
12-03-2013, 04:12 AM
If you've gotten two requests for fulls out of 40 queries, you're doing reasonably well. Plenty of authors never get that far.

I can't tell how encouraging your rejections are without reading them in their entirety, but the number of full-manuscript requests you get is probably a much better benchmark of how you're doing.

Meh; it's a 5% request rate. I'd say below 10% should trigger a stop on sending anything out and a hard look at the query.

Kevin Nelson
12-03-2013, 11:51 AM
Meh; it's a 5% request rate. I'd say below 10% should trigger a stop on sending anything out and a hard look at the query.

Re-evaluating the query certainly couldn't hurt.

WeaselFire
12-04-2013, 01:38 AM
Without having an published works under your belt...
Nobody cares about that but you. Write the book. Revise it and get it into a publishable form. Write the query and send it.

Jeff