Saturday, May 12, 2012

Querying! (Part I)

It's almost the one-year anniversary of the day I started querying! And since summer is a popular time to query agents (and to mark the occasion), I thought I'd put my meager opinions out there for all of you who will be sending out your queries soon.

When I started out, I had literally no idea of what I was doing. I wasn't clear on what an agent did, or why I needed one besides the fact most publishing houses don't accept unsolicited manuscripts anymore. I didn't know what websites to use or how to connect with people who were on the same step of the process as I was (or that I needed to connect with other people). I didn't know what a query letter was, much less how to write one. (If this describes you, go peruse around or Or even if it doesn't describe you. Those two websites are freaking amazing).

So. I kind of just...did it. Trial and error. Which was very, very stupid. Because my query letter sucked. And I queried all of my top agents first. And I got rejected, again and again and again...

So how do you write a query letter? Well, they usually consist of a hook, a paragraph with the premise and conflict of your manuscript, and a bio of yourself. The one that follows got me four full requests and an offer in two weeks, after querying nine agencies.

Dear <agent>, 

Faye defines her life in numbers.

Nine hundred children who are trapped together in a circle of mountains every year to fight a War that keeps the rest of the land at peace. Eight years since she watched a man with golden eyes murder her parents and swore to avenge them. Three faces she sees in her nightmares every night. Two ways she can die: by the betrayal of the Fate which should gift her with powers beyond all reckoning, or by being drained of every drop of the peculiarly colored blood that marks her as one of the Fated.

One boy that appears in her life without warning and undermines everything she believed in.

Arrogant and unreachable, Aro is one of the enemy king’s most prized soldiers. A cynic who knows the price of trust, he keeps a long list of things he doesn’t believe in: second chances, because people never change, regret, because it only comes when it’s too late to do anything but wallow, innocence, goodness, sanity…

And since he doesn’t believe that opinions are worth anything, he ignores his own when his king orders him to capture Faye during a War. He never expected to save Faye’s life. Faye, for her part, never expected to give him the chance to do so. And neither of them ever expected feel anything more than animosity for each other. But when a number of looming threats force them on an unprecedented attempt to cross the mountains, battling avalanches and seemingly insurmountable odds, neither can continue to ignore the similarities that are binding them together.

Wildflower (100,000) is the story of a girl who has learned to keep her heart locked away, a boy who knows that love is a weakness, and emotions that can be defined by neither numbers nor lists. Also, I thought you might like to know that the Lowenstein Agency and the L. Perkins Agency currently have the full manuscript, the Kristin Nelson Agency has a partial. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

I pasted this here mostly for those of you who'd like to see an example query. Keep in mind, though, that I chose to break a number of rules with this. It's rather lengthy for a query , and it's written from two different POVs, and looking back, there are a lot of things I could have done better. This week's post was supposed to be something of an intro to this blog series, and next week I plan to dissect the above query a bit more and list a few things I wish I'd known before I started querying.

Um. So it's probably pretty obvious that I've never done a blog series, either. Or really given querying advice. So...maybe you guys could put questions in the comments or something? Suggestions?

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