The Query Letter – The fine art of not sounding like a jerk/idiot.


In my previous post I shared my first experience with pitching an idea to a literary agent. It seems a logical next step to discuss my ongoing battle with step 2, the query letter.

I think I just want you to share my pain.

Right after I was asked to submit some of my work with a query letter, I began to troll the Internet for examples. Like so many times before when I do this, I compare it to standing on the edge of a vast sandy beach ready to look for the one grain of sand I need. Yuck!

Yes, there are lots of examples. Yes, there is basic format. And yes, they gave instructions. But when you realize how much is riding on this one document, it’s enough to add a few more sleepless nights to my already full calendar.

Paragraph one – The Hook!
This is the lead in. The all important first sentence which should make the agent want to keep reading.
What? What kind of magic is this? I had trouble wrapping my head around this because I just kept thinking, “How many times have I bailed after the first sentence?” Never. I get emails, even a few old fashioned letters ever now and again and I don’t wad them up right after sentence one muttering, “How lame and uninteresting!”

So, I wrote a “hook” opening line and rewrote it and rewrote it, until now it sounds really lame and uninteresting to me. Perfect!

Paragraph Two- Brief overview of the story.
Brief overview of the story? Goodness! My book now seems depressingly large and complicated. I could probably act it out faster than write a brief overview. This part took forever, but I did finally succeed and wrote a one paragraph overview.(Let’s just hope they don’t count off for sentence length, because I have some highway sized sentences!)

After revising and revising, I now have two parts completed and both look really lame and uninteresting to me.

Moving on!

Paragraph Three – Tell us about yourself.
Now we have the opposite problem of trying to turn something short into something long. This section really helped my mental state…I’m kidding, you know that right?

I have not won any awards for my writing nor have I ever had a following on Facebook or Twitter. My current job has nothing to do with writing and my college degree has nothing to do with being an author. When trying to write this part the only thing I could come up with as any kind of achievement at all was my doctor told me once I healed exceptionally well after both of my C-Sections. Finding no way to weave that into anything literary, I did leave it out.

Now I have three lame and uninteresting sections. At least I am consistent!

The good news is my partners in crime, D and M, have both agreed to read my query letter and give suggestions. Maybe after a few more months of revising….


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