My Tweets from QueryDay
As you know, Friday was QueryDay on Twitter. I think it went exceptionally well. Lots of great questions from authors, lots of agents and editors chiming in with answers. An incredible wealth of information was passed around! Several people asked me to compile my tweets from the day. So here they are. Just a whole bunch of random bits of information in 140-or-fewer characters. Keep in mind that many of these are in response to a specific question from someone on Twitter. Let me know if you want me to expand on any of these in a future blog.
“Learn your craft” = nothing to do with grammar. Style, voice, story, plot, pacing, dialogue, characterization, etc
A query that makes me laugh out loud is a great thing! Whether or not the book is for me, it gets my attention.
A query that talks only about the THEME of your novel is rarely effective. You need to tell about the STORY.
Being told “your writing is good” but still no? Remember–dozens of queries in the pile. Can only say yes to a few.
Christian writers: Best NOT to say you’re going to explain something about the Bible that no one has ever understood before.
Don’t misspell “query” in the subject line. Everybody makes mistakes and it isn’t an auto reject… but it looks bad.
DON’T say “the book gets exciting in chapter 5” or “the pace really picks up toward the end.” Make it shine from page 1.
Don’t send us something outside of our guidelines and try to impress us with how “out of the box” you are.
Even Jesus used fiction as the most effective way to pierce people’s hearts. Still true.
Everyone who doesn’t know how to schedule auto-tweets… you need to get an account at TweetLater.com.
Fiction writers… it’s ALL about the writing. Nothing’s as important as what’s on the page. If it rocks, nothing else matters.
Fiction: qualification=ability to write. Non-fiction: must have credentials and/or significant platform.
First time authors/fiction: must have complete MS. Nonfiction: proposal & 3 chapters.
For me, previously self-published is totally irrelevant. Neither helps nor hurts. See my posts: http://bit.ly/spTIb
For memoir, platform not quite as important as for straight NF… but the WRITING is all-important, must be GREAT.
Here are a couple of posts I’ve written about the “competition” section of your proposal. http://bit.ly/118ki9
Humility is much better than arrogance in a query letter. Try not to oversell yourself, but present your work with confidence.
I appreciate referrals from my current clients, editors I trust, and other friends in the industry.
I ask for 5-10 pages in the query. It’s enough for me to tell if I want to read more.
I do everything by email. No need for hardcopies… everything goes on my Kindle.
I don’t know of any agents who expect or even want exclusivity on queries. On requested partials, yes.
I love queries that are straight-to-the point and don’t “try too hard.” The matter of fact approach is refreshing.
I love women’s fiction. The easiest for me to sell is inspirational romance & historical.
I prefer your query NOT tell me what a great movie your book would make. If it has movie potential, trust me, I’ll notice.
I rarely find mixed comparisons helpful (“Jane Austen meets Frank Peretti”). Works in Hollywood but not for me.
I realize some people write great books but not killer queries; I give the sample pages much more weight than the ltr.
I understand it’s difficult to visit so many agent websites and read all their guidelines, but it’s worth the effort.
If fulls/partials aren’t getting you a yes, then go back and work on craft & story. Don’t rush. Take your time & get help.
If I can change my two-spaces-after-a-sentence habit after 25 years of typing, so can you. One space is standard in publishing.
I’ve said on my blog I don’t mind you using my first name. If unsure, use Ms. or Mr. to be professional.
If you mention a previously published book, make sure I’ll be able to find it on Amazon because I WILL look it up.
If you want to draw me into your novel, don’t write your query in a dry, boring, uber-business-like and/or academic style.
It boggles my mind how many queries don’t address me by name, when my name is right there in my email address!
It’s a big risk to say you’re “sick of vampires” (or anything else). What if it’s the agent’s favorite genre?
It’s all about the writing. The story. A title can help or hurt your chances, but not make or break.
Many great stories are difficult to summarize adequately. Everyone’s in same boat unless its high concept.
My last word on 1 space vs. 2 spaces: Anyone who complains about this should be banned from computer, forced to use typewriter.
Never, never, never phone an editor or agent unless they’re YOUR editor or agent
No need to reveal entire plot in query; give the set-up and premise; make me want to read it.
Professional does not mean boring. In a query letter, boring = pass.
Queries are first step in the door, but they’re not nearly as important as your book! Put 99% of your effort into your BOOK.
Reality check: If you are your family’s breadwinner, plan to keep your day job even after you sell several books.
Referrals definitely help. That’s why you go to conferences and network like crazy.
Straightforward doesn’t have to equal dry, uninteresting, or lacking voice.
The first book MUST be able to stand on its own, mention you have series in mind if 1st book hits. Give synopses.
The key to a query letter is the same as in good fiction: show, don’t tell. SHOW me that your work is amazing, don’t tell me.
There are NY agents who represent short story collections when the writer shows tremendous longterm potential.
This is the only time I will shout today: IT’S A SUBJECTIVE BUSINESS! Like art, TV, movies, fashion, etc. Not a reason to whine.
This may be hard to hear, but I suggest you avoid being in a rush to get published. Take TIME to develop your craft.
TOP reason I say “no” to queries is the story doesn’t sound unique, fresh, exciting. The problem isn’t the query, it’s the book.
We may not update AgentQuery or anything else, but we try to keep our websites/blogs updated.
We need word count, not page count, to determine if it’s something we represent.
We’re spending the day talking about queries, but remember they have limited importance. The BOOK’s the thing!
When I have a backlog of queries, I usually read them in the order they came in.
Writers are always asking for feedback; but often when we give it as concisely as possible, it’s interpreted as cruelty.
Writing credentials don’t sell your book, your WRITING does. Can’t stress strongly enough. Take time to develop craft.
Yes, we occasionally track down potential nonfiction authors and see if they want to write a book.
You can write all the amazing queries you want, but if you don’t have a great book, you’ll never get a book deal.
You don’t need comparative titles in the query, but in the PROPOSAL, you do.
You must include the genre. Publisher, bookstore, consumer all need to know! Find books/websites that discuss genre.
You’ll ONLY get accurate info about an agent from their website. All other sites (AgentQuery, etc) are out of our control.
You’ve got to sell that first book. The agent wants to represent YOU, not one book, but it’s based on that 1st one.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.