‘Query’ is a Four Letter Word

Did you know that it’s January? Excuse me…what’s that? You knew? And…it’s what? It’s the 22nd of the month?

Holy Helvetica! What have I been doing for the last three weeks?

You see, my goal was to to have my first manuscript revised and re-edited by the end of December – all shiny and polished and ready to send out into the world. Yes, setting a goal like that during the holidays is like putting on platform heels to ride a bicycle…it doesn’t make sense and is likely to end up badly for everyone concerned. But I still had high hopes that I could carve out enough time to finish the remaining 100 pages. They were the best part of the book, after all. How hard could it be?

Stop laughing, both of you. I can hear you. It’s embarrassing enough as it is.

My first 60 pages are pretty good – even by my admittedly unrealistic standards. After all, I’m the first person to cry ‘sucky’ about my own work. I am my own worst critic. But I put on my big-girl underwear and re-read those pages yesterday. And danged if I didn’t remain vomit-free. No gagging, no eye-rolling, no swearing. It does NOT suck. Which means that it’s…gulp…time to assemble a list of agents to query.

Query letters are short, usually three or four paragraphs long. And in those paragraphs you have to intrigue an agent enough to want to read more. No typos. No grammatical errors. Your query has to COMPEL them to request more pages, even when they see upwards of 10 to 12,000 queries in a year and can usually tell within two or three sentences if your story and/or your writing is up to snuff. No pressure, or anything.

Nope. No pressure.

The last time I queried this manuscript, I sent out eight e-mails and got one request for more pages – a success rate of 12.5%.  And this whopping response was from what I thought was a kick-ass query letter. It’s a truly humbling experience for anyone who experiences occasional self-doubt, and, trust me, all writers fall into that category.

So it’s time to revise and polish my query letter, too. Time to distill a 170 page book into two paragraphs so incredible and awesome that if an agent DOESN’T request pages, they are in danger of imploding on the spot. I’m going to be uber-awesome. Awesome to the n-th degree. Awesomer than a really awesome thing.

If you hear about scores of agents in New York imploding at their computers, you’ll know why.

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