Round-up of Query Advice

Many of the agents I follow via twitter or through their blogs have been writing about queries lately. There’s been much discussion about how queries are multiplying like gremlins in the rain and they’ve held competitions to empty inboxes. (And I thought I was competitive… remind me never to challenge an agent to a game of dodgeball…)

A few points stood out to me this week and I thought I’d compile and share.

Style in the query is a must. Jessica Faust, BookEnds Lit

I know that I fell into the trap of trying to make my query letter sound ‘professional and polished’ (which should really be read as ‘stodgy and dull’). I was worried that if my letter didn’t sound business-y enough, no one would take it seriously. The end result was a letter that was perfect to form, but that had no hint of my writing flavor. (What does my writing flavor taste like? A mix of Diet Coke, Sour Patch Kids, and Honeycomb – delicious!)

Don’t worry so much about your experience. The query is to sell your novel, not you. Nathan Bransford, Curtis Brown

Hooray! So the fact that my last publishing credit was in my college literary magazine isn’t going to hurt me? Thank you! I spend plenty of my day job reading and writing – but my experiences teaching sixth grade language arts – while amusing and patience-building – don’t exactly fit in with the rest of my query.

Buzzer words:
Rachelle Gardner, Wordserve Literary

These are the opposite of buzzwords. These are words and phrases that lead to immediate rejection of a query. Using phrases like “literary blockbuster” and “hilarious; you’ll laugh out loud” are buzzer words. Your query letter should show your skill, not tell the agent how amazing you are. (Gah, the same thing I’m telling my 11-year-old students: show, don’t tell!)

Follow the submission guidelines: Colleen Lindsay, FinePrint Lit

It was shocking to hear that so many people didn’t bother to read the submission guidelines or type in a personalized greeting. Bad manners, people! What would your mother say?

I highly recommend following each of the blogs above. Any other publishing/agenting/editing blogs you recommend to me?

Happy Querying! Or at least as happy as this fingers-crossed-send-button-pressing-compulsive-e-mail-checking process can be.

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