Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Query Struggles

What do you put into your query letters?

I basically suck, yes, suck, at writing query letters. I've read the books, blogs, and everything on how to write the most amazing query letter EVER that will immediately get you a book publishing deal! I've obviously failed that course.

I recently braved the harsh world of a query critique. It wasn't pretty, not at all. Death by Chocolate almost happened yesterday. Okay, it wouldn't have been death but it would have been Ben & Jerry's chocolate therapy. YUM! Anyhow, the critiques were brutal . . . and helpful.

Now, some backstory. The basic premise of my current project: six friends meet once a month for margaritas. Yes, margaritas. Yes, I drew from real life inspiration (in more ways than I'll ever admit). They're each at a crossroad in their lives. Their decisions, good or bad, will have far reach consequences for each of them. The story takes place from three perspectives. Okay, initially, the story took place from six perspectives, but separated into Part I and Part II. Part I dealt with three perspectives, wrapped up their storylines, and then Part II picked up the remaining three perspectives. The end result, 140,000 words. Ah, so you see the problem. What agent in their right mind is going to look at a new author's 140,000 word book. So, since it was fairly easy to do, I split the book in two.

In my query letter: do I mention all three perspectives, the issues those characters face, and the resolution of the issues? Or, do I just focus on one character and let the sample pages show the agent the different perspectives?

As you can see, I'm totally confused and torn. I've written the query letters both ways. I haven't succeeded with either.

Now, Elana is currently ripping my query letter to shreds. Don't worry, Elana, there's a Ben & Jerry's right around the corner. I'll survive. : ) I'm just really wondering how the rest of you, or those that have queried, or those that are about to query, or those with multiple perspective books, would handle the situation.



ElanaJ said...

Hmm...I'd have to look at this to see. I'm of the opinion that the query should sell me on one character. But if you've got three that are equally query-worthy...

I'll go look at yours.

PJ Hoover said...

The query needs to be so short, I'm not sure you have time for all three perspectives. have you written a one page synopsis yet? If not, this is a great place to start. Also how about a one sentence summary? It really helps in finding what needs to be mentioned.
And IMHO, the number one most important thing to have in a query is a compelling voice.

Angie Ledbetter said...

I agree with PJH's thoughts on importance of voice. Start with a unique and hooky first sentence and paragrap, then thread in the fact that it's a multi-POV book and sequel. Maybe continue with a few sentences on the conflict and resolution between the characters? Good luck. Hope you let us know how the process goes.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever read Query Letters That Rock! by Renegade Writers (Linda & Diana)? Very good, might help you out. Best of luck!

Lynnette Labelle said...

This sounds like general fiction or even women's fiction. I write romantic suspense, so I'm not sure exactly what you should put in your query. However, you want it to sound like the way it would be described on the back of your book (the pitch part, not the whole query).

Have you gone to agentquery.com? There's a link there "Join AQ Connect". Click on it. Start up a free account and go on from there. You'll find a room where you can have your query critiqued and you can critique others. I recommend doing both because you'll learn just as much from shredding others' work as you will reading what they've critiqued on your work. There are other great places you can visit on this site and learn a whole bunch as well as have different things critiqued (like your first page). Good luck.

Lynnette Labelle


Scott said...

All - any input is invaluable to me at this stage of the game.

Elana - of course all my characters are query worthy. What were you thinking?? : ) They all three play an integral part of the story.

PJ - the voice definitely comes across in the query, that was the main positive of the critiques.

Angie - see above about the voice. Thanks for the other advice.

Janie - I haven't read that book, but did do an Amazon search. It's mainly for freelance articls and stuff. Does it work for fiction queries?

Lynette - an agent termed my genre as chick lit w/a gay narrator. Go figure. I'm using the 'mainstream' genre since it pretty much is about today, here/now, and all that jazz. : ) I do have a free account w/agent query (what aspiring writer doesn't?), but I haven't checked out the section you mentioned. I know what I'll be doing tonight.

Thanks again for all your comments. Now, I'm off to Ben & Jerry's for some much needed therapy!


Barb said...

I have no clue what your book is about or who is in it, but I put together the following in the hope that it might trigger off an idea...

Sipping dreams, pouring out hearts, shaking up lives.

Once a month, a group of friends meet to drink margaritas and try to decide where their lives are meant to be taking them next.

Streetwise Sam needs to let someone care about him and help him get over the one that got away.

Reclusive Jamie wants to the world to see his talent, but his fear won't let him submit it anywhere. Deep inside he can't believe the praise of his friends but he can't trust the eyes of a stranger.

Jewish Roger has never got over (whatever it was).

Tequila loosens the lips, and the heart. Some secrets are made to be told and soon the smell of lime signals the need to release the hidden bonds that hold them all in place.

To admit their fears and move on means allowing the pain they have shunned back into their lives, but to refuse the healing is to remain standing at the crossroads.

...so that was woeful, but I hope that when you read it you might think, no not like that, like this...

Tess said...

Wow,will Barb be my friend and write my querys? Seriously. That's a great query!

I am horrible at query letters. I broke all the rules when I queried my novel...I included a piece of text, I even had some questions in there..but in the end, it turned out ok. Four agents queried...four requested fulls.

Wish I could offer better advice! You know querytracker has an option to view other people's queries...I think you have to be a paying member to see them. I'd share the query that worked for me w/ anyone who was interested.

Scott said...

Barb - are you reading my mind too? I mean, you got the characters names right, the situations and . . . Okay, you seriously didn't, but I appreciate your insight.

Tess - if you wouldn't mind sharing, I'd love to see it. I've definitely considered breaking all the rules . . . just haven't done it yet. I may just need to start from scratch and see what happens.

Back to Ben & Jerry's! Later.


Lady Glamis said...

Scott, it looks like you have some great advice. Sorry for coming in so late in the game. I suggest going with just one character, as Elana says above. Also, are you submitting into the Query Slushpile (link on my blog) for any comments and suggestions?

If you truly are stuck, I have my own methods that might help, but keep in mind that I've yet to sell a book or get an agent. :)

Scott said...

Lady Glam - better late, than never, unless your my main character, and he's always on time. ; )

I do follow the Query Slushpile, just haven't jumped into the fray just yet.

I'm open to any methods. Nothing I've done has worked. I've changed the letter a bunch of times already. I know the voice shines through in each letter, but I guess that's about it!

If you want to 'comment' your methods, that'd be great!


Danyelle said...

Multiple POVs is hard to fit into the query. I'd narrow it down to one, if possible. I'm having the same problem. Of course, I made it easy on myself and started the book from the villain's POV, even though the query needed to be written from the MC's POV. >.<

Your comment about the agent is drink warning worthy. :D

Word verification: gransped :P