4.07.2007

Hey baby, wanna see my pages

Miss Snark,

I hate writing query letters. Detest. Loathe. I can do it, mind you, just I'd much rather be working on my next story or sticking needles in my eyes. Is there ever a time when we (specifically, fiction writers) no longer have to bother with query letters?

For instance, if I have an agent who has sold a previous book of mine, do I have to hit her with a query before forwarding my new masterpiece? Or a situation I'm currently in: I don't have an agent, but I have a publishing house that published a book of mine in 2006 (didn't do great, but made *some* money). Do I have to query them before sending my newest manuscript? And if so, does it have to be the standard query letter or can I just send something brief asking if
they'd like to check out my new novel?


I have more than a dozen writers working on next projects right at this very moment. They just tell me what they're working on in pretty general terms. It's not a query because it's a certainty I'm going to read their work. Query implies a question of whether I will read it, and thus requires some persuasive reasons be included (thus, 'wanna read my next novel' is not a query but a lazy ass shirking of your persuasive responsibilities).

You're much more likely to need a query letter with a publisher but it certainly won't be the same form as what an unpublished writer would send. They know you, they know your work.

If writing query letters makes you grumpy, adjust your attitude. Don't think of it as asking me for my attention. Think of it as performing introductions. You know I'm looking for good work. Introduce your good work in language that is enticing.

You're a writer. Look on query letters as a place to strut your stuff. If you keep thinking how much you hate query letters, you'll stop writing them, or do a crap job with them, and that, that is a very very bad thing.

10 comments:

woman of letters said...

Hey Baby! I love writing query letters because they are written in the 1st person (the easiest POV in MHO)and because they are oh, so formulaic. How 'bout you give me an introduction to your publishing house (name names at a date to be named later) and I'll be your query slave for a year or until you get that 2nd MS accepted, whichever comes first?

BernardL said...

An added bonus of writing a good query letter is you can use it for a book blurb if you sell your work. :)

Heidi the Hick said...

That's excellent advice!

It is amazing what an attitude adjustment will do...

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I love writing queries, too. I've long thought that people shouldn't write their own queries, but hire it done or do it collaboratively. We're thinking of trying just such an experiment based on synopses.

ORION said...

Attitude adjustment here is important. When I talk to writers and they tell me they hate query letters it inevitably boils down to they hate pitching their work and they hate synopses.
The truth?
They are hard at first for each project but as your work evolves, tightens and becomes an integral part of you - it becomes easier.
The more you know your work -- the better your work is -- and the easier queries or "hooks" are to write.
And pitching? It's really marketing yourself and ya gotta do it...
JMHO

Martha O'Connor said...

You should also check your contract. You might be contractually obligated to give your old publisher "first right of refusal."

green ray said...

This was an interesting post because it forced me to ask myself how much I like working on my query. And the answer I had to come up with is that I guess I really like it, as I've spent so much time doing it in the last year and half, since my novel was completed. I love the challenge of trying to succinctly descibe my complex novel in a few short paragraphs. I think I've finally mastered it, thanks to people like you, Miss Snark, as I recently got 6 requests in a row from it - so I guess it's finally working. I have enjoyed the restriction of its form, and tried to master the way I've done it. Now I think it's time to start the next book.

ND said...

Thanks in no small part to Miss Snark, I actually don't mind writing query letters. I can't necessarily say that they're fun, but, having paid attention to this blog, I found that they became a challenge rather than a chore.

However, because this February I signed with a highly reputable agency (initials VKA), I don't have to write them anymore.

But I suppose that I will still have to write synopses. Sigh. The joy of these I have yet to find.

And so still I read Miss Snark, hoping to encounter more keys to publishing enlightenment, which isn't bestowed upon you just because you've found an agent....

Anonymous said...

Before I had an agent, I had two books published through a big publishing house by myself. With the second one, I sent a friendly note with a one-line pitch to the editor I had worked with. This then started a discourse, and we finessed the idea together until I had a fleshed-out five-page synopsis for her to take to the boss.

Good luck with #2!

anonagent said...

it's always been my experience that those who claim to hate writing query letters hate writing them because they can't write them well. they want to claim that their prose is all that matters, their genius can't be bothered to come up with such pedestrian things, etc., etc. i have yet to find a situation where a bad query led to good writing. the query is shit and the prose ain't too far behind.