Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Querying - It's A Process

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The first query letter - what a terrifying experience!
A query letter is defined as:
A query letter is a formal letter sent to magazine editors, literary agents and sometimes publishing houses or companies. Writers write query letters to propose writing ideas.
For example, a standard requested format for a manuscript query letter to a literary agent could be approximately 200 - 400 words, expressing the following information:
  • The topic of the work
  • A short description of the plot
  • A short bio of the author
  • The target audience
The literary agent would then decide whether to contact the author and request to see the manuscript, based on the contents of the query letter. In this sense, the query letter is an author's first step towards getting his/her manuscript published.

Don't forget the word count and follow the agent's submission guidelines exactly. Before querying an agent, it's always a good idea to have other people read your query letter. The community of writers, authors, editors and agents on Agent Query Connect is a wonderful place to test your query letter out. It has multiple pages and one in particular designed just for the dreaded query letter - AQ Connect - Query Critiques. I thought my query letter was pretty good. But after posting it on AQC and receiving several suggestion it became even better. Most people are very nice about helping you and you get the chance to repay the favor.

After several revisions, my query letter was ready to go, thanks to the great folks on AQC. I chose an agent from my list, composed a formal letter, made sure it contained my contact information and that I spelled the agent's name correctly. (That's important.) I reread the entire email three times, spell checked three times and then stared at the cursor hovering over the send button for longer than I'm willing to admit. This was my baby, I worked so hard, poured my heart and soul into it and I'm just going to hand it off to some stranger? I have one shot to catch an agent's attention. What if the agent doesn't like it? What if my writing is poor? What if she does like it and requests more material? Question (fear) after question (fear) sored through my mind.

It's a terrifying process but one that must be done, and it does get easier. I finally hit the send button, closed my laptop, and walked (rushed) away to calm down. Then the wait begins.

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