Saturday, September 20, 2014


A year ago I had my MS done and all ready to push to the publishing world. Carol Lynch Williams offered to give it a final look-over.

As if that wonderfully crafted piece could be found to be deficient.

It was.

My writer’s group has been poring over it ever since and I now find myself ready to share it with the world. As I’ve learned a bit on this next aspect on the writing adventure, perhaps others would like a primer on querying.

The information below applies to agents more so than editors. I’ve come to understand that most editors would prefer to work with agented writers and thus, I choose to concentrate my efforts there. I assume the same suggestions would likewise apply to publishers. 

Rule number one is to write a killer book. That’s a tough one. There is some very good kid lit out there. Is mine Newbery award caliber? Okay, at least it’s a darn good story and I’m proud of it. I think I’ve got voice, good characters, and a nice story arc. I am biased, but think it is worthy.

Rule number two is to write a killer query. That, too, is a tricky one. It doesn’t take nearly as long to write as the book, yet many writers cringe at the thought of it. There are differing opinions on the format it should take. has a three paragraph formula and they say “don’t stray from this format.” Interviews with agents suggest straying. Some like cutesy and clever (you do want your query to stand out from the multitude), others want it to look professional. 

As Nathan Bransford says, “A query letter is part business letter, part creative writing exercise, part introduction, part death defying leap through a flaming hoop… In essence: it is a letter describing your project.” What most agents want to see in a query is the genre, word count, a short summary, and information on your writing credentials. A hook, or teasing information similar to a book’s jacket cover is not uncommon. A synopsis would cover major plot points and how they are resolved. The goal of the query is to pique the agent’s curiosity and get them to ask to see more.

Research, a vital step in the query process, should not be skipped. It is important to know if you and your work will mesh with the agent and agency. Before wasting an agent’s time with something they are not interested in, learn what it is they and their agency represents. Determine what their submission policy is. There is variety within them. Along with the query, they may request a synopsis, the first five pages, first three chapters, first twenty pages, a writer’s bio, a book proposal etc., either attached or pasted into the body of the email. You don’t let the great American novel never see light of day because the query, unread, hit the trash folder on a technicality. Representation is a business decision. You want get a feel for how you and the agent will work together will move the project along toward publication. 

This a scant look at the query process. Below are sites one can go for in-depth understanding. Don’t fail to follow the links found on these pages. Sites, in addition to those mentioned above, include: Query Tracker, Preditors and Editors

Once you’ve written the perfect novel, Nathan Bransford says to “write the best letter you can, be yourself, don't overthink it too much.” I believe I’ve done that.

Except for the overthinking it part.

(This article also posted at

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