A query is your first interaction with a potential agent/editor/publisher. It is a semi-formal process of submitting a taste of your work to those that might be interested to start a conversation about selling your product.
Writing a query is intimidating for several reasons:
1: How do you explain a 70-100k book in a few paragraphs.2: Agents can be very picky/judgy.
Okay, now that it’s out in the air lets talk about it.
1: Yes it is hard to capture the essence of your book in a few lines of text, a synopsis, or basically what amounts to the back cover of a book. Revelation it doesn’t have to capture your book! It just has to serve as a hook for the reader, and bridge into the world you have created. **Remember** first and foremost the people that work in the publishing field are readers too. If you write something explain it how you would want if YOU were going to read it. We have all had someone try to explain their idea in a word vomit of infinite complexity that leaves you with no idea if the story if actually any good.
So short, sweet, and true to what makes your story unique.
2: This is a fact… agents get lots of submissions and that leads to them being picky and quick to judge work. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, or that you should despair, just target your queries. If the agents has in their biography that they hate Young Adult DON’T send them the next Hunger Games. If they really like Sci-fi maybe hone in on the fact that you’re pitching a space opera that rivals a Ron Moore creation. Be pointed, show them you researched, and in the end your product will speak for itself.
My biggest mistake early on was getting too excited to get my work out there, and still having little flaws in the writing. They were quick to notice, and despite great feedback telling me the loved my writing style and the premise they rejected me as a client because my work wasn’t really finished and ready to sell. So EDIT, EDIT, EDIT.
3: The bitter taste of rejection is a constant companion to a writer. Even the most successful have a pile of rejection, and likely an even larger group of people that hate their work. As a writer I’m going to tell you the secret to getting past this… write for yourself. At the end of the day I don’t write to make millions, I don’t write to get movies made from my books, and I don’t write for my fans. All those things are great, but I write because I have stories in my soul and I want to tell them. I feel better when I put ink to paper, and when I make characters come alive. Being rejected from an agent or a publisher is a part of the job, not a reflection on my self-worth or my ability to tell stories. So buck up, fuck the haters, and keep writing!
Now that we feel good about ourselves again–writers are artists and therefore delicate things–we need to learn from rejection. If you get 10 rejections tell you that your grammar sucks, maybe you need to do a bit more editing… Okay brace for heavy rolls! If you get told over and over that your story is derivative of (Fill in the blank book or movie)… maybe it is. You need to ask yourself is what you did unique enough to be separate or not?
Last story to close this post…
My first book. A sci-fi, heartfelt, poured my soul into it. It got torn apart. The characters were not great, it was choppy, and my writing style was amateur. I lived in denial for a long-time until I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It was the same damn story, but way better written, and that was when I realized that story was dead… it pained me I likely over ate something chocolate to sooth my wounded pride, but I came back stronger and wrote better.
My first work wasn’t my best… i was a developing writer, and I still am.