Forget all those multiple-step guides to writing the perfect query letter. There is no such thing as the perfect query. It’s subjective. One agent could love it, while another will fail to note a single redeeming feature in that same letter. So how do you write a quality query? Same way you write quality fiction: write, edit, set it aside for a week or two, then return to revise some more. It’s all about looking at your work with fresh eyes. Whether it’s a novel, short story, or a bloody annoying query letter, the same rules apply. If this doesn’t quite blow your hair back, Writer’s Digest has some solid ‘alternative’ advice.
Cut it Out: Cut the bejeebers out of that mother. Get to the point and don’t bother naming more than two or three characters. Agents are busy people; they have no patience for a rundown of every detail. That defeats the purpose of a query letter in the first place! Think Jon Lovitz in League of Their Own: ‘Field, try-outs, play.’ Get to the point. Forget the throat-clearing waffle of telling the agent you know all about her. I’ve found I get better responses when I skip that and serve up the ‘hook’ right off the line. Then you give ‘em the meat and potatoes of the tale. Follow all that up with dessert: the twist. WHAT MAKES YOUR BOOK STAND OUT?
There it is; your masterpiece in 250 words or less. When you think you’ve finally polished that bugger to a prosey shine, put it away and sleep on it for a week. If it’s not your 18th version, it ain’t ready yet. Godspeed, Query Master.
If you write and submit your writing, you will get rejected. Repeatedly. Harshly. Or you’ll be ignored. It’s like in Lost when Rousseau warned Sayid about Benjamin Linus: ‘He will lie. For a long time, he will lie.’ You will be rejected—for a long time. But the good news is that one magical day it’ll all turn around. You’ll open your e-mail. The name of an agent will be there, waiting for you to click on it. In your heart you know it’s another rejection. You don’t want to read it. But you open it, as you knew you would. OMG! It’s not a rejection, it’s a request; Jennifer Jackson wants to read my entire Iconocop manuscript (for example)! Believe me if you are persistent, if you build your knowledge repertoire and name, it will happen.
IT’LL TAKE YEARS: I know, you’re thinking you’ll be the exception. Your first MS is phenomenal, the next Look Homeward, Angel. Let’s be real: your first manuscript is borderline trash. Put it in a drawer, write for another year, and then dig that 250,000 word behemoth out and give it the once-over. You’ll be eating crow, sure as sugar. Same goes for your second beast. My first two works of naiveté are safely tucked in a drawer where they can’t hurt anyone with their offensive prose and meandering plot-holes. Submit your third. By that time you’ll have done what many wish and fail to do: you’ll have written that novel you always wanted to write. You wrote it, finished it, and then repeated. Congratulations, you’re a writer on your way. You’re clinging to that Writing Ladder like a champ. Don’t keep revising that first epic fantasy. Move on to the next project. Challenge yourself; write in a different genre, use a different POV. Submit shorts to e-zines and contests. Continue reading “Own Those Rejection Letters–And Start Getting Requests”
If you’ve been writing for years, then your skills have (hopefully) vastly improved. And yet you’re still getting rejected. Doesn’t make sense, right? Odds are the reason your work is discarded has more to do with your name not being Lee Child or Laini Taylor than with your writing skills. Struggling writer Chuck Ross suspected this very thing was lurking at the heart of his mounting rejection pile. So he decided to run a sneaky test. He submitted Jerzy Kosinski’s award-winning novel Steps to 14 publishers under the fictional name ‘Erik Demos’. All 14 rejected the novel. He received a form rejection letter from the house that had published it! Fourteen publishers failed to recognize a book that had already been published and won an award—because no one looked at the title or writing. They saw only the unknown name of the submitting writer and rejected the submission based solely on that unfamiliar name. –Rotten Reviews.
Continue reading “Why Your Work is Being Rejected (And What to Do About It)”