Querying process

Discussion in 'Francis/Julia Knight' started by Jo Zebedee, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. Jo Zebedee

    Jo Zebedee Come away, oh human child - Waters and the Wild

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    Hiya, Francis. I know you put a lot of work into queries, went through query letter hell on Absolute Write and believe it was that work that helped you get an agent.

    A lot of us here are just getting used to the querying/agent process. Any tips?
     
  2. Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

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    Oh, sure!

    Firstly, remember querying is a mysterious beastie. I found writing the query harder than writing the book! However if you can learn to write one it will stand you in good stead later.

    Also not UK and US queries are different, more a cover letter in the UK, but often in the US it's query only to start with so a lot rides on it. Either way, this is a sales pitch and a chance to showcase how well (and clearly!) you can write.

    The main part people (including me) have problems with is the body/pitch/synopsis part where you have to get across what the story is about, with enough excitement the agent wants to pick it up, in 200 words. Which is harder than it looks -- people always say 'Oh but this bit of my world...this subplot...this whatever....is vital!' Mostly not (esp subplots), not in a query.You'll clog it up. The other main problem is you know your story. The reader does not. What you think is crystal clear because it's obvious if you've read the story, may make someone else go 'Huh?' because they haven't. So always, always, ALWAYS get someone who hasn't read the story to read your query!


    A good starting point is this.

    Protag A is this kind of person (why do I want to spend a book's worth of time reading about this person?.), who wants B. However, C is stopping him and now he must XYZ (the choice he faces at the climax) or ZOMG! (the stakes, what happens if he fails)


    To start with, cut everything else - this will give you your core plot to work with, which you can jazz up or pare down a necessary. Ideally, as in your book, your worldbuilding should show through the person and his actions rather than just be laid out baldly.

    Here for instance is the first half of my query for Fade:

    [FONT=&quot]Dislocating your fingers to power your magic isn’t ideal. Being convicted of using magic is worse, so Rojan prefers tracking bounties with more legal skills. But today isn’t Rojan’s day—his latest bounty almost killed him three times, his girlfriends all found out about each other and trashed his rooms, and his niece has been kidnapped. Now he’s got to use his magic to find her, and it’s going to hurt.

    [/FONT]So here we have Rojan, what sort of person he is (A feckless and reluctant pain mage), what he wants -- not to use his magic -- and what's stopping him - the kidnap of his niece. I'm not putting up the second part because it;s spoilery! But suffice to say, I show what problems follow the initial incident, what Rojan's ultimate choice will be and the consequences of that choice.

    So there we are, simple, neh? Lol. No. But for some good examples, do lurk in Query Letter Hell, or try Queryshark. Look at the original efforts, and later ones and see the difference. Crit them, even if only in your own head. You'll soon get a feel for it (and a feel for agent's pain....)


    Blimey that turned into an essay! Oh, that reminds me, be concise....
     
  3. Jo Zebedee

    Jo Zebedee Come away, oh human child - Waters and the Wild

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    That's incredibly helpful, thankyou. Ou make it sound easy!
     
  4. Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

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    Lol, no, I found it the hardest part (still do - not querying an agent now, but similar skills are required for pitches/proposals etc, which is why it's a good idea to get a handle on it!)

    I generally tear a few chunks of hair out each time. :D
     
  5. Glitch

    Glitch #452

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    I'm assuming that unlike a book blurb, you do include details of the ending?
     
  6. Mouse

    Mouse Bye

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    Glad you've said this! I sometimes think I must be doing something wrong as I'd not actually sent any query letters at all. (I have sent one since, but only because it was a US agent who requested it from the Twitter thingy).
     
  7. Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

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    That kind of depends - personally I go up to the Black Moment and the moral choice that comes at the climax: Our Noble Hero can do X, but his wife dies or do Y, and she lives but all the unicorns are lost forever...So, further than a book blurb, but not so far I reveal what choice Our Hero actually makes.

    All the (US) style query needs to do is make someone (an agent) read your book, as opposed to all the other books they've been pitched this week (depending on the agent, this could be up to 100 other books. So it's important to get it right!). Use everything at your disposal, and leave out what won't help -- this is part of the craft of writing, choosing which is which! Like I say, read lots of queries, see what works, what doesn't. Also research agents! Some state they MUST see the ending in a query (so give it to them) some don't (go with the version you think works best)
    Ofc, with a UK query, you send a synopsis normally, so giving the ending isn't a worry. Then again, the blurb/pitch/synop part of your letter is often shorter (Note, I have had zilch success with UK agents so take that for what it's worth!)

    You'll want to research if they are legit as well (I recc AW's Bewares forum and Preditors and Editors, run by Writer Beware). Even if they aren't scammers, if they aren't making sales, or are only making sales to micropresses that take unagented subs welll...a bad agent is worse than no agent

    Another tip is to send your query out in batches of, say, 5 or 10. If you get no bites whatsoever, tweak your query.
     
  8. Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

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    Hehe yeah, UK queries are a different beastie. But essentially you're trying to do the same thing -- get the agent to want to read your work. However it's a bit more forgiving, as you usually send the first three chapters. I know a couple of agents who've said they read the chapters first, the query after (if they are interested). But you can't rely on that!

    For UK queries there's advice in the Writer's Yearbook and a quick google of "uk query letters" should get you some examples too.
     
  9. Tirellan

    Tirellan Well-Known Member

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