Thursday, May 26, 2011

Query-Go-Round, Round 2

Okay, I'm smack dab in the midst of the query process. Again. Trying to be philosophical about it all and believe the rejection letters that say, "it's not you, it's me." It's a lot like dating, I guess. Everyone is looking for that special someone who has that something that completes them. Or, at least, completes their list.

Do you use the Query Tracker website? It's a great site and a great tool. I have to admit I'm more of a lurker there myself. I did sign up, so I can access the whole 9 yards of information available, but I have yet to comment. I love their blog, and in the past have rushed to query every new agent they mentioned, whether they were totally appropriate or not.

I'm trying very hard to use restraint this time. Do all the background research possible and then some. Read the comments that others have posted about the agents I'm considering. Yes, that's right - the simple fact is that we as writers should be considering those agents just as much as they are considering us.

Agenting - like Dating - is a two-way street.

If I send queries to every Tom, Dick, Jane, and Harry, I may have some awkward dating moments. Or a whole lotta rejection letters piling into in my inbox. I want to make sure they are the right match for me and my book before I go extending them an invitation to read my work.

So that takes time. And research. My husband thinks it's a numbers game. Send out enough letters and you'll get a certain percentage of interest in your work. I tried that approach, and I'm not sure it's worth the price of rejection. Because if an agent isn't interested in your genre, they aren't going to be suddenly won over by your query. Even if they are a YA agent, there are so many permutations and forms that YA can take...

It's easy enough to research online and see what an agent likes or doesn't like. It just takes time.

There's another great website called The Write Attitude which has a ton of inspirational quotes from great writers - all saying the same thing. Don't give up. Keep writing. Keep working on your craft. All published authors have one thing in common: they didn't give up.

Okay, so - stepping off my soapbox - I had previously posted my query for comments, and received a few great suggestions. Everyone's favorite seemed to be Mooderino's - until another bloggy friend posted that you should never - ever - open a query with a question. She cited Nathan Bransford on that and I went to read his many blog postings on the subject of queries. Oh boy. So much to consider.

But onward and upward. I liked Moody's suggestion, but I've tweaked it a bit to get rid of the question. I'm till not sure it's quite "there" yet, but I'm willing to send it out and try. The new (improved?) query reads:

Dear (Agent-of-my-Dreams),

No one suspects a farmboy from Oklahoma has mermaid blood coursing through his veins, least of all fifteen-year-old Shea Maguire. He doesn’t remember the mom who abandoned him, and doesn’t believe in mermaids. But while he enjoys life with his dad on the farm, he feels out-of-step with the other freshmen at Plainville High School… like there’s something more out there.

After a deadly tornado flattens his home, Shea moves to Cape Cod and meets a mysterious girl who promises to help him find the truth. He finds it hard to believe his strange birthmark means he’s the one who’s supposed to save the undersea kingdoms from war, especially since he doesn’t know how to swim.

Prince Demyan, self-proclaimed ruler of the Southern Ocean, will stop at nothing to avenge his father’s death. Only rumors of a drylander boy stand between him and the ultimate power he craves… and really, how hard could it be to kill a rumor?

MERMAID BLOOD is a 64,000-word YA novel. My previous writing experience includes two small-press romantic suspense novels for adults and membership in RWA, as well as reporting for local newspapers. I have a BA in English literature from Colgate University, and live on Cape Cod year round with my husband, children, and big stubborn dogs. I currently work as the Editor for magazine, an online magazine featuring the creative artists, writers and businesswomen who live and work on the Cape.

I’ve included the first fifteen pages in the body of this email, as suggested in your submission guidelines. A full manuscript is available upon request. Thanks so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

After Helen's comment, I revised the query to include the closing paragraphs - I'm not sure what the third one she mentions is supposed to be? Can anyone help me out? And where I say "Inlcuded the first 15 pages as per..." that's from the last query I sent out, and those were the specific guidelines that were listed for that specific agent. Obviously, I'd tailor that to the submission requirements of each agent...

Okay, questions? comments? suggestions? Where are you on the Query-Go-Round?


  1. I think that looks good, but will you still have room for the last three paragraphs that need to be in the query? 'Course most agents now take things by email only so you're not quite so restricted as if you query by snail mail.

  2. I think this looks great, but I am the farthest thing from an expert on query writing. I am still learning the ropes, and find it all overwhelming. Thanks for sharing these links, I wasn't aware of these sites and am anxious to check them out. More research!!

    I love the analogy to dating, so true!

  3. Hey, I like your query! I hope you get lots of requests. It sounds like a really great novel.

  4. I'm currently sending out queries for a chick lit novel I've been working on. It's very unique so I know that the requests I have gotten really enjoyed my voice. That being said I'm still waiting to find the one.

    It was a lot of work and I had to tell myself I didn't suck a lot of times. While I found query tracker very helpful it also could do the opposite and make me feel defeated.

    That being said I'm currently writing another story that will make it's way to query kingdom very soon!

    BETS OF LUCK! I like your query!

  5. Hi Katie - I thought I'd pop over to your lovely blog after you left a message on mine. Great to 'meet' you, especially in this mad merry-go-round of writing and submitting!

  6. I am intrigued by your novel and wonder whether if your MC is half merperson would water have some strange, inexplicable allure for him? Great query letter and I like the idea of choosing your agent like choosing a date! :O)

  7. HI Katie! I think it reads pretty darn good! Just to make sure tho... you've stated what your MC's goal is and what's at stake for him in tryingto attain it? You might want to make that a little clearer. Love the premise tho... sounds like a fun read!
    I'm just about to re-enter the query fray again too. I'm being very selective this time. I've tried mass queries before and that just means mass rejections. Part of it is a numbers game ... but the real work is in making the story as good as it can be. If we put as much work into studying the craft and revising our stories as we do in mass queries, then finding the "dream" agent will be easier in the long run. My two cents anyway. :)

  8. Ugh! The query process is arduous. There are so many "do this" and "don't do that" bits of info out there.

    Some time ago Writer's Digest listed a number of query letters along with commentary from the agent who ultimately responded to it. It varied so much from agent to agent that I came away scratching my head. One agent would say they loved a particular query because it specified such-and-so; a different agent would say they loved another query because it didn't specify the very same such-and-so that attracted the first agent to the earlier query. It left me thinking that while we should certainly follow guidelines, in the end you have to go with your gut and say what you want to say. I've read comments by other agents who say they never read the query letter at all, but jump straight to the sample chapters or synopsis! Yet another said that when she reads queries she looks for "voice" rather than specific adherence to query guidelines. Confused yet? Yeah. . .me, too.

    I think if you try to follow all the do/don't rules you'll drive yourself crazy. Follow the guidelines that make sense to you while imparting the information the way you think is best suited to your voice and work; and then give it your best shot. Good luck!

  9. Hi Katie! I think this is a strong query letter, too. But I would also agree that Shea's goal needs to come through a little stronger. I like how you have introduced the conflict in the third paragraph.
    I am struggling with the query process, as well. I have been thinking of starting a day on my blog where we can critique each others' query letters. I have found getting feedback from others to be pretty helpful. Right now, I have only a few queries out as I have learned to be far more selective these days.
    Good luck with the process. Your story sounds like a great read!


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