Monday, April 11, 2011

Query Letters

So now that I have a book being published, I am in the middle of writing the sequel.  I also have another young adult paranormal romance I want to start querying.  My mind went back to some great advice I got at a convention I attended last September.  Now, I know they can be pricey but if you can beg, borrow or steal the money (I begged for mine) you can't believe the information available at one.

I went to the Southern California Writers' Conference in Los Angeles.  It was their 8th one and they've got it down pat!  I got my little schedule and marked all these killer seminars I wanted to attend.  Defining Genre.  First paragraphs and What They Must Do.  The all-time fave, Show, Don't Tell.  What I learned right away was the value to the conference is the Read and Critiques and getting your face in front of an agent or editor.  Sign up for as many of those as you can!  And go to ALL the Read and Critiques you can stomach.  One of mine was a Rogue Read which started at 9pm and lasted till nearly 2am!  But it was incredible.  The people leading them are unmatched in their fields and have the most amazing things to say.  And this is where I learned the best thing I ever learned about a query letter.  And here it is:

There are only 4 things the query letter has to do:
  1. Introduce the protagonist and his/her problem.
  2. What the protagonist is going to do about the problem.
  3. What the conflicts are that are keeping the protagonist from reaching his/her goal.
  4. What are the stakes?  What happens if he/she doesn't succeed and why does the reader care?
Isn't that brilliant?  I have seen a million books and posts about the query letter but that one piece of advice slugged me in the solar plexis with its simplicity.  I even format my query letter with the 4 things in a sort of template, like this:
  • First paragraph, name of my book, genre, word count.  Launch into #1 and #2
  • second paragraph, #3, wrapping up with #4, maybe leave with a question.  (ex: But, can he do it?)
  • third paragraph, who I am, some credentials, thank intended reader for time.  Boom.  Goodbye.
Other thing I learned at the convention, agents and editors HATE wordy queries.  If you can be in and out under 250 words, they are LOVING you.

Now, I only offer this as my opinion.  But, it worked for me.  I'm going to try it soon with my second PR, THE GIRL, THE GHOST, AND THE GUYS.  We'll see how it goes again.

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