Sunday, June 9, 2013

A tip a day to keep rejections away

Honestly, I considered leaving this blog empty except for that ecard, because it's so awesome.  And concise.

Seriously, there are a million and one websites out there each striving to tell you how to write the perfect query, and each one says something different.  Each one means well and can teach you something, but "not one size fits all", as they say.

You haven't been doing this long enough yet if you haven't realized the following truth:

It's true. Every single agent out there wants something different, and who can blame them? I mean, doesn't everyone want something different out of life?

I guess half of America wants Brad Pitt, but I say:

"No way, give me Edward Norton,

Or Andy Garcia,

Or Robert Downey, Jr."

But I digress...

So...back to writing queries. Yes, you can read all over the Internet about the right ways and the wrong ways, but the more you read the more you realize that querying is a bit of a crap shoot.  Sure, there are things you can do to improve the odds, and I'll get to them eventually, but in the end it's still subjective.

Here's what can help:  investigate the agent you're querying. 

Pay attention, this is important.
First, establish the fact that they 1) are currently taking queries, and 2) represent your genre.  Once you've established this, then try to figure out what THEY want in a query. 

Here are places to check:
1) their Twitter feed
2) their blog, if they have one
3) their agency website - and here's a tip for the wary:  sometimes what the individual agent wants is DIFFERENT from what you will find on the general submissions page for the rest of the agency
4) do a Internet search with their name followed by "literary agent" to find any recent interviews

But sometimes you can't find anything.  Then you have to decide:  in this day and age, if this agent doesn't have anything anywhere as far as an Internet presence, is this the agent you want?

If the answer is still "yes", then just guess the best you can about the query format and submission pages.

Typically, the standard query format has three sections. 

Section one starts with a formal heading, followed by a short paragraph detailing your genre, word count, and why you chose this agent to query. 

The sole purpose of the second section is to "hook" the agent to request your book.  Make it as interesting as the back cover of a book.

Finally, the last section should detail what writing experience you've had in the past.  Again, there are different opinions on this, but I include my nonfiction experience even with fiction queries because it's still published material, no matter the genre. 

Don't forget to sign off politely, thanking the agent for their time and be sure to leave all your contact info.

But before you get ahead of yourself, just consider for a moment... are you really ready?

Don't be like me and query too early, and waste both your time and that of those agents before your MS is truly ready.  I'll admit I was a fool the first time around and queried long before I joined a writing group, or knew what beta readers were, or did a was/were search.  Stupid, ignorant me.

Learn from my mistakes.  Do all your "homework" first.  You're in no rush to get rejections.

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