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.
So over the last few months I have been focusing very heavily on the creative side of writing. I have been in the midst of my day job (military) and my free time has been getting rough drafts written for several projects. I love that phase! For me the rough draft is the best part… the raw idea-to-paper transition is amazing, surprising, and a wild ride. At the end I’m usually exhausted mentally, and get such a feeling of accomplishment when the story that has lived in my brain–usually knocking around at the expanse of whatever I should be thinking about–is finally complete.
There is a next step though on the road to publishing, and when I started this blog to catalogue my experiences I wanted to highlight the whole publishing experience. So over the next weeks I’ll be hitting on some of the lessons I have learned while I accumulated a small mountain of rejection letters. I’m no J.K. Rowling, but hopefully my experiences can help others along the way.
Wanted to take a minute to talk about an upcoming project… don’t ask me when this is happening, but I’m already pretty excited about the idea.
Some of my favorite books / movies are the ones that revolve around mental illness and or conditions of the psyche. The thing I think is amazing about them is that they take some that is cultural taboo to talk about openly, present it in an honest way, and help you to see the person with the condition as something more than their condition.
Here we have movies about Body Dismorphic Disorder, Disassociative Disorder, and Under develop intelligence. Now regardless of how well you liked the movies, but if you hated I Am Sam we can’t be friends, just kidding. These movies all serve to put a face to a mental condition the average person knows very little about. There are plenty more, just wanted to point to a few.
So my idea for, Here There Be Monsters. I want to write about a child growing up in an unusual world. her/his world is all inside a compound. It’s a small universe for a child, but not an unpleasant one. They have all they need to survive, but as a child filled with natural curiosity they want to know what’s ‘outside’. As long as they can remember they have been told stories about the ‘monsters’ that live in the outside world, and the horrors that are all that is left of the world. Naturally you could wonder as a reader if the child is growing up in a post-apocalyptic world, and simply being sheltered from the devastation that lays beyond the walls of the compound. As the child grows they begin to question what they see through the cracks in the walls, and the infrequently deliveries of supplies. She/he sees monsters because that’s what they have been taught to believe, but what if the monsters are only monsters because that’s the way the adults in the compound see them, what if their minds are turning the world into the scary place they portray.
The idea would be to explore what it would look like to grow up in a compound of extreme agoraphobic adults. They see the open spaces of the world and the press of humanity as horrifying and something to protect they child from.
Right now I’m still working through the details, and how I want to explore the illness while also making it a story about child overcoming their own issues.
More to come…
I’m excited to have the first few readers finished with Hakomi. It is a very different story from most I have done. It is a coming of age story, but with a good bit of humor, and a little more action than you expect.
The story takes place in a variety of different places, but centers around a hiking trip across most of Arizona, and into Northern Mexico.
As a kid I lived in the Mojave desert so this part of the country holds some nostalgia for me.
One of the things I’m excited about with Hakomi is the cover art. While it doesn’t always end up being the finished piece, I like to do my own cover art during the draft/editing phase of a project. For me this a way to capture in visual what I just spent forever trying to create in words. For Hakomi the cover is going to be a weathered map with the route hand annotated.
There will be a few more clues to the journey included on the cover. Like these…
So what do Rosanne, cocaine bricks, and lizard tracks have to do with a coming of age story?
You will have to wait for Hakomi’s release to put that all together.
Well hopefully if you have seen the site lately you will notice there was a spring cleaning. I think less is more for an author’s online home. If you wanted to hear me ramble you would just by my books or watch me line tweet something.
My plan is to hit the site with a more thorough update this summer. With that here is what I hope to deliver with the new an improved site.
- More graphic utilization in the blog / photos (Likely come cat pictures)
- Individual pages for the different projects
- Descriptions of the new projects: Hakomi, …With Justice, and Not With A Bang
- Better Amazon integration
So Kurt how’s writing going? You ask…
It’s going well, thanks for asking! I’m finishing the 3rd book in the Liberty Trilogy. by finishing I mean I am on chapter 3 of a 32-26 chapter book. My dumb day job–keep the lights on, put food on the table, pay the bills–is keeping me pretty busy. There is a fair amount of creative work happing though. My best intentions are to finish two more rough draft in 2017. Want to push 2 books off to agents for publication, and then we will be knocking on 2018’s door.
What are you going to write after the Liberty Trilogy Kurt?
It’s like you know what’s on my mind. Crazy! I will be taking a step back into my favorite writing world after book 3 in the Liberty Trilogy, doing a scifi! I started a saga The 7th Age (was just one book back then) in college. I wrote a book that I still love, but I realized later that the story really needed to start way before that book. So… I’m going to write the beginning of that saga.