February 22, 2014

The Art of Querying

Dear M,

If querying were like mathematics, there would have been a formula which you could apply to the completed manuscript you have with you, and the equation would have yielded the perfect query letter.

However, writing queries is not mathematics, it is art. Which means that there is no rule, no law, no equation, no correct answer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Some people like it, some don't. Some stand out from the crowd, some are trampled in the stampede.

As a person who has been writing query letters for a long time, I know what I am talking about. I don't even dare read the ones I had written a few years ago in my height of optimism and self confidence. Really, if there was a touch of arrogance in them, I would not be surprised.

Different agents and publishers look for different things in the query letter (though the essential items remain the same: author's bio, sample chapters, synopsis, etc.). It is important to understand what they need and how they need it before querying. They also could be bored individuals gazing at query after query, day after day after day.

Like every other art, writing query letters can be learned too, to some extent. The query letter is the first hurdle to cross on the road to publishing. It opens the door to the agent or the publisher just enough for you to put your foot in. The rest is up to the brilliance of the manuscript.

As in any other art form, the only answer is to keep trying and keep modifying and keep learning.


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1 comment :

  1. you got it right. It's important to know what they need, and how to place your work to 'fit in' with their requirements.