How NOT To Query
Guest post by author @StephanJHahn.
I am no expert in the art of the query letter. In fact, I’m deep in the trenches of a war that I don’t even want to be fighting with all the people I don’t want to be fighting with.
I recently finished an epic fantasy manuscript and I thought to myself: I’m going to be a traditionally published author. How hard can it possibly be?
How hard indeed.
You might be thinking to yourself, why would I listen to someone who is not an expert in query letters? The reason is threefold.
For one, this is a guide of what NOT to do when writing a query letter. So, I am telling you all the things that are contributing to my failure. Secondly, as of yet, I am undefeated in not getting a literary agent. And third, I have a witty sarcastic way of explaining things that makes you want to read more.
For these reasons I feel I am uniquely qualified to tell you what doesn’t work, or at least what hasn’t worked for me so that I can spare you at least a little pain and suffering.
5 Things To AVOID When Querying
1. Changing Your Query Letter
What you need to avoid is obsessively changing it.
It is hard enough to boil your 100,000-word novel down into 250 words, but it is even harder to do it multiple times. Every time you change it, you are putting more work into something you have already done.
Try to perfect what you have instead of completely altering it. Try to say what you’re already saying with a little more pizzazz.
2. Querying Everyone At Once
You are always going to get some form rejections, but if you are finding that ALL of your queries are coming back form rejection or CNR then you need to regroup and rewrite.
If you have queried all 700 agents on your list with a bad query, who is left to send the revised version?
3. Thinking Every Form Rejection is a Form Rejection
And you can’t really blame them; could you imagine giving personal feedback for hundreds of emails every day?
When you get a form rejection you need to read between the lines. Something about your query didn’t incite a fire within the agents you are querying.
* Please reference point 1 before you revise too much.
4. Take Rejections Personally
The truth of the matter is that most of those reasons are out of your hands. I mean, think about it. No matter how well you research you will never know what is in the mind of another person at any given time.
* Please see point 5 coming up shortly.
5. Forgetting to Relax and Breathe
There are many reasons for agents to decline to represent your manuscript. Maybe it is not the right genre or trends at the time are not correct.
It also comes down to personal taste. If they don’t absolutely love your manuscript, how can they absolutely champion it for you? Do you really want someone representing you half-heartedly?
Personally, I don’t plan to stop until I have exhausted every method of getting published. This is your dream, and you need to pursue it with a clear head.
Just relax. Breathe. Brew another cup of coffee (or tea if you’re a monster) and send out a few more letters.
Your time will come.