Query Letters and Other Forms of Torture

I have revised this query letter dozens of times. I've sent many versions to literary agents all over North America with out a single positive response. Yup, you guessed it. My query letters sucked.

For those of you who don't know, a query letter is something a writer sends to literary agents and publishers. It is based on this one-paged letter that the author must sell his/her story. If the author does a good job of writing this letter, it will entice the agent/publisher to request sample chapters from the manuscript the author is attempting to sell. If the agent/publisher likes those sample chapters (usually three chapters) they will request a full manuscript. If they like the manuscript-and if the author has the luck and odds of a lottery winner-the agent will represent them, or the publisher will publish. Many publishers-especially the big ones will not even consider reading a letter from an author that is not represented by a literary agent. Then the agent does this same process when searching for a publisher on the authors behalf.

If this letter is poorly written, the author will receive a form rejection letter. What is a form rejection letter you ask? Well, here is one such letter copied and pasted here for your benefit.

Thank you for querying us regarding your manuscript. Unfortunately, after careful consideration, we have decided to pass on this project. Thank you for considering our agency for representation.

Yup, a form rejection letter tells you about as much as a mime. Form rejection letters get irritating, fast. I should know, I've received tons of them. Can't say I blame them. Agents receive hundreds of query letters a day. Hard to personalize that many letters.

After discovering a very helpful blog: Query Shark , I know what I have been doing wrong this whole time. I was too focused on telling the reader what I thought the premise of the book was instead of focusing on the characters struggles. The characters are the reason a person wants to read a novel, and I had given the characters a backseat to what I thought the novel was about. This can make the delivery of the story sound preachy, which is a fate worse than a Lindsay Lowhan career death. *shudder* Rest assured, I have learned from mine and Lindsay's mistakes.

I have written a new letter, one that focuses on the character's conflict.

Now all I have to do is finish editing the novel and write a synopsis. *presses hands to sides of face and screams until the neighbors complain*

For those of you who don't know how horrible writing a synopsis is, see this post. I never did end up writing a synopsis yet. I must save that torture for another day.

Duh duh DAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

Stella out!


Jean Davis said…
I hear you! I've been smashing my head on the desk over my query letter too. Its posted in the CC query thread if you feel like taking a turn at ripping it apart. :) Post yours there and I'll take a look at it if you want.
Stella Telleria said…
You are on, Jean! My letter needs some ripping apart. I didn't know about this query thread on CC. Ding! Ding!!

Thanks for letting me know.

Botanist said…
Hi Stella, I kinda stumbled onto this post via Jean's blog. Sorry you're having trouble with the query letter. I, too, had no idea how to go about it until I found Query Shark. You might find the Public Query Slushpile worth a try too (http://openquery.blogspot.com/).

And as for the synopsis...I managed to wring one out after many long and painful hours. That was far worse than the query.

In fact, now I think about it, queries were rather fun after the initial fright. But that synopsis ... *clutches head and groans*
Stella Telleria said…
Hi Botanist!

I welcome all stumbling by. I will check out that link you sent me. Like I said I haven't written the synopsis yet. I do believe it will be more painful than death. I think I've come around to the query letter now, even though I'm still revising it. Success!!

Thanks for your thoughts.


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