Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing Query Letters

If you want to learn to write winning query letters (and by winning I mean ones that will catch an agent’s eye), start following a blog called QueryShark.

Janet Reid, an agent at FinePrint Literary Management, reviews query letters that readers send in (and by “review” I mean, and I’m quoting her, “eviscerate.”) You send them in; she, with no punches pulled, tells you what you’re doing wrong. Okay, she rips them apart.

She does occasionally come across a winning query and she links to those in her sidebar.

It’s definitely a blog to read for research on writing or improving your own query letter. I wouldn’t recommend submitting to QueryShark until you’ve read and understood her eviscerations and have worked and re-worked your query, then had others read and critique. And then, submit only if you have a thick skin.
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30 comments:

  1. Yeah, I have been following her for awhile. She sure owns the name Shark. But you will not be left with any questions about whether or not your stuff is good or bad. You'll know it sucked. And then you'll rewrite and hopefully improve your chances with an agent. Good luck all who dare swim in her waters!

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  2. In other words, send aher a query letter when you're ready to be torn apart! (And be sure your skin is really thick.)

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  3. Yep, sent to her - haven't been eviscerated yet but look forward to it. The thing is zillions send to her and she only does one every week or so....

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  4. Public Query Slushpile is another good one to try out: http://openquery.blogspot.com/ .

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

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  5. What a great blog...thanks for posting it here.

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  6. I'm so far from querying anything that it's not funny...but I love these recommendations, because I'll have a place to go when I'm ready.

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  7. Yep, have to agree. Query Shark is a terrific resource.
    ~jon

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  8. I love both Janet Reid's blog and the Query Shark. But then, I've always been fascinated by tell-it-like-it-is people.

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  9. I get confused by some of the query guidance that's out there. There's a well documented formula that many agents claim the support. Okay. Then, when you read some of the queries they select as good...they follow few or none of the rules? I'm trying to strike a balance between rules and common sense. Hope it works.

    Best Wishes Galen.
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

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  10. Sometimes I think writing a query is one of the most difficult pieces of writing, needing to communicate so much, instantly and effectively, in the briefest of spaces. And, you only get that one shot, so a lot rides on it.

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  11. I follow that blog and, along with being very informative, it is quite entertaining!

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  12. Joanne, you are so right about query letters. A lot does ride on it and you don't get to ask for do-overs.

    Before the time comes that you need a query letter, visit this site and others off and on and see what agents are looking for. Yes, they say do this, this and this, then they seem to like the ones that break the mold. They want the info they say they want and they don't want sappy and begging, but they do also like different, fascinating, and brilliant. Who doesn't? 'Course, it takes work to get that in a one page query.

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  13. I'm up for being "eviscerated" - lol. Forgot all about that very poignant word. Good pointer though, Helen. I'll check that blog out for sure.

    Marvin D Wilson

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  14. Think of eviscerated as another word for "growing experience," Marvin.

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  15. Thanks for the reminder and link to the site. I have read Query Shark before and picked up some tips on writing a query letter. Maybe I should get brave and submit one for critique. Just got another rejection from an agent on my humorous memoir. I'm sure the query letter could be improved, but like our writing, sometimes we need an objective eye to point out the weaknesses.

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  16. But wasn't it Chaucer who said he would eviscerate his critics in his fiction? :)

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  17. I don't know- I sometimes think people obsess too much about query letters. More time on the book- if it's good it will eventually find a home.

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  18. Wow. Brutal (and also a little funny) but a great learning tool. Thanks for this link.

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  19. Thanks for the link.
    Things I wish I'd known sooner!

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  20. I've been following her for awhile and picked up some great tips.

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  21. I love the Query Shark! I've learned so much from her. She gives great advice :)

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  22. I wouldn't submit unless you have a thick skin and don't have a tendency to throw things.

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  23. Thanks for another great link, Helen.

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  24. Oh, my, she is frank. Uh, I guess that's the word.
    I try to remember what an agent told us at a writers conference this summer. Make the query business-like and good enough to draw them to your words. But don't freak about it. It's our words that count. Of course, getting them to ask for more words is the point.

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  25. Oh, my, she is frank. Uh, I guess that's the word.
    I try to remember what an agent told us at a writers conference this summer. Make the query business-like and good enough to draw them to your words. But don't freak about it. It's our words that count. Of course, getting them to ask for more words is the point.

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  26. My first time here. I really like your information and the link. I will go back there in a minute.

    Thank you!

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  27. Hi Journaling Woman. Come back again.

    Kathy, you're right, that is the point.

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  28. Amiable post and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you as your information.

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  29. Easily I to but I dream the post should have more info then it has.

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