Friday, April 19, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Querying

Welcome back, ladies and gents. Today, I'm going to dangle a carrot before you. You want to get published, right? Excellent.

Here's the thing, if you want to go the traditional route to publishing, there's this small technicality between a completed novel and the publisher of your dreams. 

Querying. 

Veteran novelists, stop wailing. You're scaring the new kids. 

Sigh. 

Okay... so honestly, it's more than a tiny technicality. It's... well... Honestly? 

Querying is a bitch. 

It's about being told no again and again despite the fact that agents keep saying they want what you have. And then they don't even tell you why. You don't even get to ask. 

Then I'm not even talking about the absolute agony of drafting the query letter in the first place. You see, you can do what you want. 250 words will never do justice to your story.

And more often than not, you'll have one shot at catching that agent's assistant's attention. 

Basically, what I'm telling you is this. Querying is like going into Category 5 hurricane with an umbrella. What you don't want is to query with an unfinished novel. 

And no, you definitely don't want to query a first or second draft. You want to go querying with the absolute best you have to offer. In other words, a story you can't imagine editing again. And the best query letter you can write. 

Without those, you haven't a hope. 

Any other query tips for a new novelist? 

15 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd add consider all possibilities. Query publishers as well. And consider other genre angles for your manuscript.

YVONNE LEWIS: said...

I find this fascinating to read.

Yvonne.

Erin Shakespear said...

And see, I love querying! Querying means that I have something polished enough to start sending out. And that always makes me happy.

Of course....I always assume every query will be rejected and that way I told get my hopes super high. :)

Colin Smith said...

My post today is one big huge querying tip...! :) Querying is, indeed, a necessary evil if you want to be published traditionally. But it's a great discipline, and an excellent way for a writer to think about his/her novel, what it's really about, and whether the writer can articulate to someone else in a handful of words why they need to read it. In short, querying can make you a better writer. :)

If you're interested in my post for today, it's here.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Lovely and funny today, Misha! Gotta have some humor in all of this Querying business. As to any advice for those about to enter the hurricane, I'd say learn the form, find out a lot about who you're querying, read some successful queries and get it proofed by good editors before you send it off.

Rena said...

Querying definitely stinks. I mean really stinks. I think the advice that I would give the n00bs is not really advice so much as a word of caution:

You can have a wonderful, beautiful novel, with writing to cry over, a plot to keep readers going to the end, and it still might not go the distance. It's a terrible, sad thing, but marketability is a force to be reckoned with. Do not get discouraged...

Oh, and write the next book.

Andrew Leon said...

My querying tip is not to do it. I'm rather opposed to supporting the publishing industry and their drive stabilize themselves by screwing authors even more than they used to. Also, I'm opposed to the whole agent process as it works at the moment. The agent is intended to work for the author, not the publisher, which is how it is at the moment.

Carrie-Anne said...

Approach the writing and editing of your query just as you should your book—at a certain point, it's time to stop fussing over it and offering it for critique. If you've had it critted and rewritten based on a fair amount of input, and the latest version is mostly getting positive reactions, it might be time to start querying already. If you ask for critique for even more people, they may have issues with things your previous critiquers loved and told you to put in or keep. Don't start all over again from square one if your feedback has been positive on that version.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Learn everything you can about querying before you query.

Susan Kane said...

I have absolutely no advice on querying, which is kinda embarrassing.

Cynthia said...

Maybe I'm not the best person to offer advice, just because I've sent out stuff to a very small number of people, but to the people I've sent stuff out to, I'd try to take the time to research them and find out what kind of stuff they've represented.

Andrea said...

Your a-z has been great...even despite the reality check it consistently provides...better to know! :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

I agree with the tip that we must query with the best version of our MS. There are no second chances with agents. All we get is one shot. And if we mess it up, then we can only query our next MS with that agent.

Cindy Dwyer said...

Great advice. One other important thing is to get feedback on your query - both from people who read your manuscript and from those we haven't. And when you send it to those who haven't do NOT give them any background. An agent would only have your query letter, so that's all you should send to your beta readers.

Having trouble starting your query? Try writing one for your favorite novel. It's a fun and great learning experience.

J Keith said...

Queries scare me. It's hard enough writing my novel and editing and wondering if it is the best it can be and wondering if I should change this or that - and now to have to worry about crafting the best query letter too. It's a daunting task