Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Dreaded Query Letter

One of the speakers at the Sedalia Writers' Conference was the warm and engaging Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House. Her moving novel tells the story of an indentured servant's intricate relationships with both the slaves and the inhabitants of "the big house."  She read several exerpts that had the audience spellbound.

Kathleen also shared how she came to write the book, and how the characters talked to her, begging to have their story told. Her journey through this literary maze took her ten years of meticulous research, writing and rewriting the story, finding the right agent--her way--and being published.

She spoke about the process of writing a query letter that engages and prompts an agent to ask to see the first three chapters of one's book. She found the names of agents she queried through On this site, you plug in the genre of what you've written, and a list of agents who handle that type of book is displayed, along with agency contact information. Remember, you never, ever pay an agent to read your book!! Their payment comes from the sale of your book to a publisher.

When writing a query letter, remember to put your best foot forward. You only have this ONE chance to make an impression with this agent. If you haven't done enough research to find out the agent's name, your letter will be trashed or deleted, if it is an email query letter. NO, you cannot write to "Agent at Acme Literay Agency"...or worse..."to whom it may concern." Use the agent's first and last name. Write a well thought-out letter, free of errors. Make it shine!

Kathleen's suggestions were:
  • Write the first paragraph about yourself. What qualifies you to write this book? No, you can't say you've always dreamt of being published, or that you read all the time and know you can write better than many of the writers out there. But if you are an artist who has attended workshops in France, then that gives you some basis for writing a fictious story of an artist who attends a workshop in France and meets a handsome Frenchman. Include only the things about you that pertain to what you've written. No agent cares if you've got the sweetest, most beautiful grandchild in the world or that your hobby is cooking--unless you've written about cooking.
  • In the next paragraph, introduce the book and the research you've done. Identify potential audiences.
  • Write a brief synopsis in the next paragraph (A challenge for me! Look at my posts. Do you see anything brief?).
  • In the next paragraph, compare your book to similar books--preferably books that have sold well. No, do not say you've written the next best seller! Let your work speak for itself.
  • In the final paragraph, give the genre and word count of your book. Also provide your contact information.
  • Once you have it written, have a few people, whose opinions you trust, read it for errors and tone. Are you positive without being cocky? Are you interesting? Many agents get over a hundred queries a day. Soon all query letters sound alike. Make yours reach out and grab them by the throat! Don't be cutesy, but do use your writing talents to stop agents in their tracks. Because the competition out there is fierce and heavy, my friends. Write a query letter that makes them want your book.

No comments: