Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What is a query?

I feel like I've jumped ahead a little bit with this blog.  Part of why I started it, is to share information.  When I first embarked on this journey of writing a book and trying to get published, I knew very little.  Through my research I found very few blogs that explain a lot of the ins and outs of the process.  I'm hoping to share my continuing journey and hopefully give some instruction to others that follow in this path.

So I should probably backtrack a little, and discuss some of the basics.  First off, when I am discussing publishing, I'm talking about the traditional route for a fiction novel.  Self-publishing and non-fiction have very different processes.

Okay, so your book is done.  You've written it, edited it about a million times, had friends and family give you critiques, edited a little more, cried and bled over it.  And no it's done.  You're ready to send it out into the world to an agent.

Wait one second.

Before you do that, you need a query letter.  So what is a query letter?  According to the 2015 Writer's Market, "A query letter is a brief, one-page letter used as a tool to hook an editor and get him interested in your idea."  It is a way to entice interest in your book.  When constructing your query, you want to keep it to one page, and divide it into specific paragraphs.

{paragraph one} The first is the 'hook' of your story.  Think of it as the tag line you would give it, if your book was made into a movie.  This should be around three sentences.

{paragraph two} This is where you give the synopsis of the story.  You want to garner interest, but not ruin the ending.  Try to keep it to one paragraph.

{paragraph three} This is where you list your credentials, any awards or previously published work you have, or if you have something in your life that adds to the book.  The male lead in my first book is in the Marines, so here I wrote that due to my experience as the wife of a combat veteran, I was able to give deeply personal insight into what it means to love a man in uniform.  However, this is not the place to highlight your inexperience.  If you don't have any, just don't put it.

{paragraph four} Say why you have chosen this specific agent to query.  Do some research for this section.  Does she have clients you love?  Did you both go to the same college?  Try to add something in there that will show her that you've really down your research.

Bonus advice:
- Always, always, always, make sure to spell the agents name right.
- Make sure to look up what they want sent to them.  Is it just a query?  Do they want a query, synopsis, and the first three chapters?  Look on their website and ONLY send them what they want.
- Have some people read the query to give you some feedback and make sure it reads well.
- Spellcheck!  Make sure every I is dotted and every T crossed {so to speak}.

Good luck!  And feel free to share your querying tips below!

Now obviously I haven't gotten an agent yet, so feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt.