Querying is one of my most favorite things about writing so far, and also one of the most stressful. I agonized over that query letter, polished it up as much as I thought I could, researched the way others wrote theirs and tried to incorporate as many of the good ideas as I could. Then I cut it all to hell, boiled it down to as little as I could, and then posted it for friends and such to critique.
Then I rewrote it. And repeated. Again and again.
This process started sometime in November, and I didn’t actually start querying until February. That was three months to write, rewrite, hone and tighten something that was only a tiny, tiny fraction of what the story was. But that’s the first (and sometimes only) chance you have to sell yourself, and give the agent a taste of your writing style and your voice.
So far, it’s worked. I don’t know how /well/ though, because it may be that my query letter rocks, but the manuscript sucks. That’s a very real concern. So far, I’m up to eight requests for more, but I’ve already gotten two rejections on those. So I’m down to six out there somewhere, floating around the Net.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who’s trying to write a query letter? Write as much as you need to to tell your story, and then cut it in half. You shouldn’t have more than 1-2 good sized paragraphs explaining your text. Make the letter formal, but try and let your voice shine through with the query letter. Your plot summary should explain your main character(s), who they are (yeah, try doing that in five lines or less), and what the main conflict of the story involves.
With mine, I tried to weave in several key elements. Braden’s sight, the feud, what his driving motivation is, and what he’s hoping the end result would be. I got a /little/ cutesy in the beginning, in my one line hook. But I thought that was a good way to touch on my writing style and humor/wit, so I kept it in the final draft.
A friend of mine, that signed recently, had four agents offer representation. She had 11 requests for partials/fulls (I think – it may have been twelve). So everyone assumes that since I’ve already gotten 8 requests (over 10 days and 20ish queries sent), that I’m going to find an agent. I don’t. I know that it’s more than a numbers game – my friend wrote an AWESOME book that I loved – and while I love my novel, I don’t have enough distance to say for certain that anyone else will love it in quite the same way.
The goal is to find someone who’s passionate about your book – they have to love it. They have to want to champion it. And they have to be a huge fan of what they’re reading. That’s what makes the best agent – and that’s all I really hope for out of the process. If I don’t get an agent off this book, I’m going to be crushed, no doubt. But I’ll have made a lot of progress from the last one – 8 requests, when the first one only got 3. And I’m good with that.