Tag Archives: query

Guest Post: Query Theory

Don Draper (JoAnn)Querying can be a lot of fun. At least that’s my theory when it comes to querying picture book stories. How to do it? Accept the premise that when you query, you’re advertising yourself. So channel your inner “Mad Men”–1960s cocktails optional–and let’s begin…

1. Individualized opening

Many posts suggest you match your story to an editor/agent tastes; to follow-up on contacts that you’ve made at conferences or workshops. Good advice, follow it. Begin with where you may have met. Then, if through prior research, you’ve learned of mutual acquaintances, or of an award for one of their books etc., mention it. BRIEFLY.

2. Synopsis

TITLE – (all caps)

Then use the following elements in any order:

QUOTE – I think it’s a good idea to quote the first couple of lines of your manuscript. You’ve worked hard to make those opening lines page turners, use them now to give immediate exposure to your voice.

Then craft 2 to 5 lines to cover the

PREMISE and/or QUESTION – that hints at the plot; and

INVITATION – to find out more

Here’s a synopsis for one of my own stories as an example:

RHINOCEROS? PREPOSTEROUS!

It was a very boring day, nothing to do; nothing to play until…

”Grandpa, there’s a rhino in the den!”

But what can one small boy do as more and more rhinos appear and run wild in his Grandpa’s once neat and orderly living room? Find out in this rollicking counting book that’s totally preposterous and full of surprises!

3. Individualized goodbye

A bit of humor here, if that’s your style, and it relates to your story and the agent/editors guidelines.

A thank you for their time and consideration.

Sincerely,

  1. Yada-Yada

Now, if you were Don Draper, you would do something morally questionable to celebrate. But, the best thing for you to do? Send out another query. And another. Then forget about them and start writing a new story…

When you do get some interest, contact the others you queried and let them know, because once one individual is interested, others follow suit.

It’s, like, “Far-out, man,” But true!

Good luck.

Headshot (JoAnn)J. M. DiVerdi has loved reading, writing and a clever turn of phrase her entire life. She’s written about cookies and for children, a perfect combo if there ever was one. She is thrilled to be a client of Linda P. Epstein’s at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, indisputable proof, by the way, that her Query Theory works!

 

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Checklist to See if Your Manuscript is Ready for Submission

Check_Mark

1.  Can you confidently say what your story is about, in 3 sentences or less?

2.  Have you let your manuscript sit undisturbed for at least a few weeks, and then read it again?

3.  Are you finished sending it out to critique partners, beta readers, or helpful friends, with an “input welcome” sticky note attached?

4.  Is it the best work you are currently capable of?

If you have 4 check marks, you are ready. Now, write a kick-ass query letter, research the best literary agents for your work, and send your baby out into the world!

But wait! How do you know if you’ve written a kick-ass query letter? How do you know if the agents you’re sending it to are the best agents for your work? Well, you can read this to check in about your query and look at this about researching agents. Good luck!

 

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Five Things You Can Do To Improve Your Query Letter

photo 1Make sure you’ve sent your query to someone who wants to read it. Does the agent to whom you’re submitting represent the genre that you write? You’re wasting your time (and the agent’s) if you write YA fiction and they don’t represent kidlit. Just because you’ve “done your research” and you think Perfect Agent For You is really cool, they like the same things you like, they have a neato online presence that you love to follow, they say funny things on Twitter, does not mean they are going to throw their stated preferences of what they’re looking for out the window and offer you representation on your vegan, gluten free, Wiccan cookbook for healing cancer, when they only represent fiction. Really. You’re not the exception to the rule.

photo 2Start with a strong hook or log line. Nothing makes me want to continue reading a query and take my finger off the delete button more than a great first sentence or paragraph. Your query letter is a sales tool. Think of it as an infomercial to sell your manuscript. If you start out boring, you’re setting up whoever’s reading the query to be bored (and to move on to something more interesting). If you start out fascinating, riveting, unique, or even funny, you’re inviting whoever’s reading your query to read the rest of it in that mindset. And the name of the game is getting that someone to read the whole query letter and be interested enough to read the manuscript.

photo 3When giving a short synopsis or recap, don’t go into too much detail. Don’t give away the baby with the bathwater. You don’t need to name every character and every situation, and you don’t need to retell the whole storyline. Tell enough about your story to pique the interest of the reader. Is your story about identical twins named Romulus and Remus, left on the abandoned Mars colony to die, who are raised by a Mars native that the Terrans don’t know exist? Excellent! Please don’t tell me how it all pans out. It’s enough to say that some of your story follows the Roman foundation myth, but that it’s just the starting point for your 95,463 word YA space opera. You can mention the key plot lines and themes, but please don’t tell all. Part of enticing someone to read your manuscript is leaving some questions unanswered.

photo 4Only put relevant information in your bio. If you are an award winning microbiologist who has spent the last 10 years in Borneo doing research to find a cure for a rare disease, don’t include that information if you’re submitting a picture book about an aardvark who prefers bananas to raisins in her morning breakfast cereal. Even if you’ve found the cure to the rare disease. Why? Because it just doesn’t matter. It’s not relevant to your task at hand. And that task is to convey information about who you are as a writer. Are you a stay at home mother of three children, who likes to knit, volunteers 20 hours a week for your church, and has an awesome organic garden? Cool! If you’re submitting a legal thriller set in New Orleans in the 1920’s your kids, knitting, church and garden just aren’t relevant. Leave it out. It’s enough to say that you’re a graduate of UCLA, a member of Mystery Writers of America, have attended writing conferences for many years, and that this is your first novel.

photo 5Make sure you’re findable and that what’s found doesn’t scare people away. That is to say, include your contact information at the bottom of your query letter (email, mailing address, phone number) with links to your online presence. Agents and editors will click the links you include and/or Google you if they’re interested in your work. Make no mistake, if you’re someone who’s bashing agents and whining and complaining online, we will see it. We really will pass on a manuscript if you seem like a nutjob on Twitter or elsewhere.

Bonus advice: Don’t use as many italics as I did in this blog post and keep the number of exclamation points to a minimum!!!!

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