Apr 23, 2009

Excellent Agent Post on Query Letters

Jessica Faust at BookEnds, LLC has an excellent post today about query letters. Click here to read it (and you really should! If you read it already, read it again. It's worth it.)

- Rick

2 comments:

scott g.f. bailey said...

Jessica's post is wise, and I hope people take it to heart. I think that she's right, that the two biggest problems with queries are:

1. People don't understand what a query letter is supposed to convey.

2. People are querying books that have problems.

If a book's author can't sum up their own story* in a sentence or two, odds are the author doesn't know what the book is about. And that's not going to get him a book deal.

*By "sum up the story" I do not mean "write a five-sentence synopsis." I mean be able to say, "This is a story about X, trying to do Y by overcoming Z."

Before you sit down to write your query, answer these questions:

Who is the protagonist?

What's the main thing driving him in the story?

What's the main thing fighting against this drive?

If you can't answer these questions, then either you don't know your story well enough to call it finished or your story just doesn't work, and you shouldn't be trying to get it published yet.

If you claim that "my story is too complex to reduce to those statements," then either you don't know your story well enough to call it finished or your story just doesn't work, and you shouldn't be trying to get it published yet.

Another important thing: the back cover copy on the books you buy? A lot of times, the authors have to write that themselves. Press releases from your publisher? Same thing: written around words the author had to come up with. So get used to the idea that you will have to be able to briefly describe your book. If you can't briefly describe your book, there is something wrong with your book.

A final (we all hope) thought: don't kill yourself agonizing over the query. Try this experiment: get as excited as you can about your book, and imagine yourself bursting into your best friend's house and saying, "I've just written the most amazing book! It's about..." and write that down, the amazing, exciting part that you'd blurt out in one or two enthusiastic sentences. You might, in fact, simply try telling people about your book, seeing if you can get them excited about it in as short a space of time as you can.

Am I done now? Yep, I think I am. And thanks, Rick, for creating this blog. Rick is teh roxor, in case anyone was wondering.

Rick Daley said...

Scott, if there was an award for consistently posting reasonable, informative (and long :-) comments, I would give to to you.

In fact, I think I'll just make it up right now and give it to you here:

I hereby declare Scott G.F. Bailey to be the first recipient of the coveted Rick Daley Award for Excellence in Blog Comments.

I also declare this award to hold precedence over all blogs on the Internet, because I am not above such grandstanding.

On a side note, the blurb on the back of a paperback or the inside flaps of a hardcover is called "jacket copy."