Which is more difficult to write? Novel or query? No prizes for guessing! It has to be the query!! As the days go by, I discover that writing a 80,000 word novel was so much easier than writing a query. I would like to share my learnings for the benefit of others who might be in a similar position – now or later:
It starts with perspective. Get the big picture and get it fast. If the query is not seen/read and liked by a literary agent, your book will never see the light of day. Period. This says it all. Unless, of course, you have loads of influence in the publishing industry or choose to take the vanity/self-publishing route. This establishes the importance of the query.
You are writing one at a time ( I assume). The literary agents and popular ones at that are flooded with hundreds at any point in time. Yours simply has to be a stand out to get noticed and acted upon favorably. Otherwise it joins the large and growing number of rejects. Dashing off a business like letter rather than a chatty one is simply not enough. The secret is to make the agent want to hear more about your novel. The query is not to tell her the whole story- that comes much later. The query is to get her to ask for more- of the story, stupid!
Getting it to its optimal length- and certainly less than one page, they say- is a major challenge. You need to edit like you have never done before. I am working with my sixth draft and it is pretty unrecognizable if you place it next to the first attempt which looks, so very, how shall I describe it…… naive! There’s a lot of stuff on how you go about writing a query, what it should contain, what it should not and so on. I have learnt one thing for sure: the only way is to polish it until it seems perfect to you.
A mistake I made was to dash off a few fueled by sheer enthusiasm. Don’t do that. There is a lot of etiquette involved in the querying process and bugging people with your ceaseless flows of queries is right up on top of the ” No-No” list. If you have already dashed off one to someone who actually deserved a better version, it’s just too bad. Don’t try to make up for the lapse by offering to send ” a new and improved version”.
These are a few of the lessons I learnt. If you have some to share, jump right in.