Writer Wednesday: A Quick & Dirty Glimpse at Querying
Good Morning Authors and welcome to another Writer Wednesday, where we talk shop, industry news, and craft. Today we are treading over a well tread subject and that is the query letter. Now there are a vast amount of tips, tricks, and everything in between out there when it comes to crafting the perfect query letter, (and yes, I will toss up some of those links in the Resources section). In fact, there is enough out there that I haven't felt the need to cover it but today, we are approaching the topic sideways by tossing out a quick & dirty glimpse of what that process entails.
A Quick & Dirty Glimpse at Querying
The Need to Rework- Writing a strong query letter can feel more challenging than writing the manuscript itself. There are some pretty straight forward formats to follow, but often, boiling down the world and characters you've spent months and over 50k words creating into a couple of catchy paragraphs is a nightmare. Your first attempts probably won't properly distill the elements required to make your manuscript pop but eventually you'll whittle down to what you hope is the essence of your book and send it off. And you hit the wall. Either through rejections or silence, the querying process is a nerve wracking onslaught of patience and low reward. The good news is it might be a matter of reworking your query. It might be a matter are sharpening your hook or redefining your details. The downside is once a query is rejected, the reception towards querying the same work again is mixed. However, the rejection of a query versus the rejection of a partial or full has a much more hopeful outlook because a fully reworked and refined query might catch the eye it missed the first round.
Man Handling Tropes- I can't stress enough how having a strong grasp of the tropes in your novel can be in the querying process. Knowing what tropes are present in your story and whether you aim to subvert them can be a more effective point of interest than your comparison titles. Thanks to pitch contests, there has been a lot of emphasis put onto comp titles in recent years, but this can be even trickier since it sets up presumptions of subject matter and many comparisons don't always work. Or work in the favor of the author who uses them. Comparing your book to big names like Bardugo and Maas sets up a high expectation and possibly a false one whereas tropes provide a firmer grasp of what sort of character and plot interactions are present in the manuscript. If you find yourself at a loss for comparison titles, switch tactics. Focusing on the tropes may also help better define how a comparison title works with your manuscript, such as Found Family or Enemies to Lovers in the style of 'insert comparison title'.
It's Not Always The Query- There are a lot more factors that go into rapid rejections than most authors realize. Sometimes, it is NOT about the strength of your query. Your query could be fabulous. But there are other reasons a good query could still get the boot. A big one is market saturation. A publisher or agent could just be full up on the particular genre or know there is not a big call for that particular genre/ age bracket/ demographic. Market saturation does rise and fall, but if you hit a high rejection rate early with what seems to be a strong query, it might be a matter of trying at a another time or pursuing a different publishing path. An agent or particular publisher might have too many similar genre titles on their slate and that might be the motivation behind the fast pass.
The Query is Only Part of the Package- It is vital to remember, especially for agents and publishers that ask for a full submission package, that the Query is only part of the sell. A strong query can be what convinces someone to read further but if your synopsis is jumbled and over long, or your manuscript isn't ready, those will be factored into how your submission is judged as a whole. And the synopsis is often key in the decision to ask for more materials where the query is not. A query is meant to be the cover letter, that spark to catch the viewers attention, but that could be all smoke if you neglect the rest of the package. Remember to take the time and effort to make all parts of your submission shine because the querying process is a long haul.
Resources & Further Reading