Apr 19, 2012

A to Z - Queries

You know the saying the more you know the more you know you don't know? I think that is how it is with queries. They are a little scary because there is so much that needs to be said, so many jobs just a few little sentences need to accomplish. I have been a devoted follower of The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment, read Query Shark and have downloaded Elana Johnson's Query How to guide, but let me tell you - whatever you may think you know about how to write a hook and a query is suddenly crap when it comes time to write your own.

I think a lot of people think that if they are going to self-publish, they can just skip this step, but that isn't true, because while the query is often used for finding representation from agents, it is also great practice at talking about your book.  And that is something everyone has to do who has a book, regardless of the way of publication.

So...what's a writer to do?

Remember the hook I said you should think about?  That's the start.  And then, we do the same thing as we do with everything else in our lives.

Practice.

Several weeks ago, I was participating in the #ninjachat at Ali Cross's blog when this subject came up.  I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to have in my query, but found that it received as being confusing, which is the worst possible outcome of someone reading a query.  Ali helped tweak it a bit, which got me on the right track.  Then I sent it to my amazing CP's, who tweaked it a little more, as they know the story.

And now?  Now I'm going back to these sites, re-reading all their information and comparing what I have in place.  And I'm reading my query out loud daily, because I have a pitch session in a few weeks, and I want to have the concept so solidified in my head that it feels like I'm talking about one of my children.  And beyond

Have you had success in querying?  Do you have suggestions for those starting out?  Any other querying resources I've missed?

21 comments :

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A good Q word very well written.

Yvonne.

elizabeth seckman said...

You're so right! When my publisher asked for my blurb, II lifted it from my query!

Karen Walker said...

You are so right about the query and all its challenges. It sounds to me like you are doing everything you possibly can to get your query the best it can be. Then you have to let it go and let go of the results, which you have no control over anyway. Good luck, Tasha. And thanks for your visit and comment on my blog.
Karen

Robin Weeks said...

Ah, the confusing query. Well do I know the feeling! I also love your idea of reading it daily in advance of pitching. I'm gonna steal that AND try to find strangers to describe it to. I'll be pitching in a couple weeks, too. *so scared*

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

I have no additional advice. Use it as a source for learning. Don't take rejection too hard, and never accept No as a final answer.

Play off the Page

Theresa Milstein said...

You're mentioning good people to turn to for queries.

Querying is the worst. My last query had the most drafts of any one I'd ever done. And I'd gotten some advice from pretty big people. But now it's in better shape and has gotten a little interest.

But my new one is a whole different story. I think I've nailed it. Of course, I'm not querying it yet, but I think it's got voice. I'll find out at my conference critique tomorrow.

Lynn Proctor said...

i think i have changed my mind since first seeing this topic a while back today--it kinda sounds fun for some reason--thanks

Alice said...

Queries are tough. I know the formula but it's getting the voice in there that's hard. I've gotten lots of positive responses to queries and sold some articles and poems, but have yet to get an agent or sell a book though I've had some interest. It would help if I sent more queries out, but I just don't feel my books are quite ready yet since I've gotten interest from my queries but not takers yet.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, although I'm still not sure how I was successful.
Writing the synopsis for the query is good practice for writing it for the back cover synopsis as well!

Nicole said...

Kristin Nelson also has some great advice on her blog about focusing your query on the inciting incident in your novel.

Leigh Covington said...

Man, this is the part that has me so frazzled right now. I have to know more about the meaning in my book to have a fabulous hook to write a compelling query to land me my dream agent and publisher! *whew!* I think I'm being a little to hard on myself, but still! What's wrong with perfection? ;)

Brinda said...

That drawing you've done is spectacular. It would certainly get my interest...but I'm not an agent. As I see it, agents are reallllly choosey. There's so much advice out there that I find it almost overwhelming.

Clarissa Draper said...

Queries scare me. I haven't done one yet but if I ever have to, practice would be something I would do.

Tonja said...

After reading a lot of the posts in the links you mentioned over the last several months, I only feel qualified to critique queries - still stare at a blank piece of paper and long to be anywhere else when thinking about doing mine. Maybe I need to give myself a really huge reward for just drafting one. Terrifying.

Julie said...

This is something I'm totally scared of and I feel like when it comes down to writing my queries I will just freeze. Thanks for sharing these links, I am going to download Elana's guide right away. I know I have tons to learn!

McKenzie McCann said...

You make a good point. It's easy to write a query letter, but hard to write a GOOD one.

The more information you have, the more you have to consider while writing it. In that sense, if you were to know everything (ha), you'd probably drive yourself crazy picking at all of the little details.

Tara Tyler said...

i'm with you! i will be practicing next month for june!

good luck!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think practicing your query to friends helps you tightened it up and get more comfortable.

Bish Denham said...

Nope, not had a whole lot of success querying, even though I've gotten help from people who know better than me how to write them. I'm not convinced the problem is with the query, I think it has to do with the stories... just not something "they" are interested in. But I'm not giving up.

Kern Windwraith said...

I'm not quite at the point of having to write a query letter yet, but getting closer all the time. It's definitely not something I'm particularly looking forward to, but I agree, it's a skill writers need to master.

Thanks for the tips!

Kern Windwraith said...

By the way, the Twitter "follow me" link doesn't lead to your Twitter account. I think it leads to the account of the company that made the button...?