QUERY WRITING: JUST DO IT

“Query.”

The word even sounds like an upset stomach.

Preparing and submitting queries is probably my least favorite thing to do related to writing. Alas, queries are in inescapable part of the writing life!

Because “I’d rather not,” I’ve constructed a system to help me stay on task: a calendar, reminders, self-imposed deadlines, personal rewards.

I also have two vigilant coaches: my daughter and my mother-in-law. “Did you submit that query today?” It really helps, having someone else check in on me.

One down, how many to go? Forward!

Tips for query writing:

Always research submission guidelines for the agency you will query. Different agencies (even different agents within a single agency) have their own particular guidelines. Familiarize yourself with these guidelines, and then follow them! Otherwise, your query will go straight from the inbox to the trash. Conforming to stated submission guidelines is simply a matter of good manners, of respecting the agent you query.

Familiarize yourself with other books in your genre. I love to read. I read a lot of books. Funny thing is, I don’t naturally gravitate toward books in the genre in which I write. So, in addition to biography, religion, and history, I require myself to alternate between these favorites and works of contemporary fiction. I’ve met several wonderful new authors this way!

Check and recheck your query; then, have someone else proofread your query for you. A query is not a manuscript; it is, however, the first step to getting your manuscript in front of an agent. If your query is sloppy, don’t expect an agent to ask to see more of your writing.

Read authors represented by the agent you intend to query. I’ve selected a particular agent from a literary agency’s website, thinking the person sounded like a good fit to represent my work; then, after reading books that agent represents, I changed my mind. The query process can be long and drawn-out; don’t waste your time querying agents whose interest and expertise do not match your writing.

Be yourself. As a writer, you are selling not only your book, but, to an extent, you are also selling yourself…your style, your voice, your personality, your humor. Don’t get so focused on writing The Perfect Query Letter, checking off all the technical dos and don’ts, that you come across as an automaton.

* * *

Want to learn more about query writing? Check out these excellent articles at wordserve water cooler:

Mastering the Essential Query Letter for Writers

How NOT to Query An Agent

Pitching an agent? Read these query letter tips…

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