Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Food for thought from Query Shark here. And then from Lynn Price here. Both American viewpoints but little they say is different over here. For "query letter" read "covering letter" - it's just that a US query letter is scarier to write because it has to sell your book and you on its own, without the recipient seeing your sample chapters at that stage.

I particularly draw your attention to Lynn's point about the pointlessness of saying "I chose your company because..." This habit has come about because of writers' genuine and well-intentioned efforts to prove that this is an individual query and the product of great research. However, think about it:
a) as Lynn says, it really doesn't matter why you chose them
b) it's a tad cocky, because there is a flavour of "how lucky you are that I chose YOU"
c) what if this is not the first agency you've tried? Or even the fourth? What you're hiding is, "I chose your agency because although you weren't top of my list of agents, you were at least on the list of agents who might in a million years consider my sort of book."
While searching for Lynn's link, I found this post of hers, containing more query letter noes. The woman is good. When she's not being bad.

The lesson from both Janet and Lynn's posts is: put yourself in the shoes of the recipient and read between your own lines. Hear your own subtext.


Charlie said...

Selling your work in a couple of hundred words is daunting. It's also great practice cutting the fat. Thanks.

btw, both links are Janet's.

Nicola Morgan said...

Charlie - thanks for info re the links. Am sorting it but am having major probs with slow or possibly dying PC so it will take a while.

Dan Holloway said...

Yes, I understand that - it's hard because so many books tell you to personalise. When I was circulating Songs from... back 2 and a half years ago, I only circulated to 3 agencies, because they were the only ones I wanted to work with, and of those there was only one I was really passionate about working with. They dealt with books of an international appeal and had a list in whcih mine would have been the perfect fit. My assumption had been that explaining why I thought the book would be right for them would show I was aware of its market.

JO said...

And eventually, when you have read every nanodrop of advice, and drafted and redrafted and drunk wine and drafted again - you have to be brave enough to press 'send.' Can be as hard as writing the bloody thing in the first place!

Rebecca Brown said...

Very helpful! Sensible advice, to think about how your letter will be read but you can be so bothered about putting over how much Aunty Grace really did love your book that you forget to apply brain.

Thanks for this, and the links :)

Dorte H said...

This post has reminded me why I absolutely HATE writing queries. It seems to me that it is a game where the rules change all the time. And I am sure the only thing they can read between my lines is that I just want to be somewhere else entirely - so I am more and more certain that unless some agent contacts ME, I will just have to live without one.

Nicola Morgan said...

Dorte - the rules never change. The rule is that you find the best way to show the agent how wonderful your book is. You put yourself in their shoes by understanidn how the whole business works. That's what Write to be Published teaches. The rules don't change but every book and every person is different. It's how books work.

Anonymous said...

But...but...but I like being bad.

Thank you for the cyber-nod, oh crabbity one.