Query Letter Torture


The query letter process is a bit like torture . . . slow and painful.  Between trying to construct the perfect hook to whittling my entire novel down to a few paragraphs, my hair is getting ready to fall out in huge chunks.  Then there’s the little problem of making my book sound really, really good, so a prospective agent doesn’t notice my total lack of publishing credits.  Too bad blog posts don’t count!

However, slowly but surely I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.  I’ve submitted a couple different drafts to Agent Query Connect, a great website with a fantastic forum dedicated to query letters, finding agents, and everything else associated with writing and getting published.  Both drafts have been picked apart by a community that isn’t shy about giving constructive criticism.  I’m getting ready to start another revision and hopefully I will get even closer to the perfect query letter with this draft.

If I’ve learned anything over the last couple of weeks, its the importance of knowing I can’t do this alone.  Writing is often a solitary act, but what good is it without the village?  No one likes the idea of rejection or criticism, but honestly there’s no getting better without either concept.  Thick skin is a must, especially when it comes to the publishing industry.  It took some soul searching, but I can honestly say I’m at the point where most crits bounce off of me and I’m able to accept them as help, rather than an attack.

At the moment, my latest query draft is getting flooded with suggestions, which is a little overwhelming but also quite welcome.  I’d rather have too many ideas than none at all!  Sure, I may lose a bit more hair, but it’ll be worth it when I get the call from an interested agent.

p.s. Bonnie, I’m sending you a draft either tonight or tomorrow morning.

c.b. 2011

25 thoughts on “Query Letter Torture

  1. Oh gosh, I feel your pain. I have been working on a query letter, for a children’s picture book mind you, for over a year. Granted, my one query letter is riding all on one specific agent and his specific qualifications. So, it’s even more detailed. I’m at my wits end, and I think I have spent more time writing the darn query letter than writing children’s books!

    I will have to check out the site you mentioned, but I just wanted to say, keep your chin up. Eventually there is light at the end of the tunnel. I hope. :S


    • Thanks! 🙂 I appreciate your comment so much. The process is rough, but it won’t take my spirit. If anything, I’m more determined than ever to reach that light at the end of the tunnel.

      Good luck on your query letter. It sounds like you’ve got quite a challenge, but where there’s a will there’s a way. May we both find success!


    • Thanks! I can’t think of a better fan or friend than a pirate! 🙂

      It’s funny you mention writing comes from the heart – I’m trying to craft my query letter so the reader instantly connects with the main character in my novel. Today, a reader said he was rooting for him. That’s how I know I’ve almost got it right. 🙂


  2. Bought the t-shirt, CB.

    My agent includes on his web site a couple of pieces of advice about how to approach agencies and publishers. The advice is not necessarily comprehensive nor does each piece necessarily agree with the other, but they give you some idea. http://bookseeker.webs.com/apps/blog/show/1904784-to-writers-a-note-about-writing-a-synopsis shows the difference between writing a ‘blurb’ and a proper synopsis. The ‘blurb’ or ‘teaser’, which is what you’re trying to write, is perfectly okay for inclusion in an introductory letter. http://bookseeker.webs.com/turner.htm is advice from Barry Turner; my agent says that the ‘unique selling point’ should be in the proposal letter, however, and not at the head of the synopsis, and that the letter should also include details of the target readership.

    He also tells me time and time again that less than 2% of all work submitted (less than 1% in a recession) ever gets published. Much that has great merit is turned down.



    • I’ll be sure to check out those links – thanks for posting them.

      I know its rough out there, but I have to try. It’s one of those things where I don’t want to kick myself later. I’m okay with failure as long as two things happen:
      1) I can say I tried
      2) I learned something from it



      • If all else fails you can become an unpaid storyteller for a small group of people, a ‘griot’ for the modern age. I often think this is more valuable than winning the Booker Prize.


      • I’m not looking for a Booker Prize any time soon, (or ever really) but a book would be nice! The unpaid storyteller is a job I’ve held for a while now and I do love it. As long as I have a blog and a muse I’ll be telling stories. 🙂


  3. There is a very lucky agent out there just waiting for you – I’m so excited for this book! You are teaching me so much more than you know – I’m so glad I get to experience this process with you! Thanks for… everything! 😉


  4. Queries…We all seem to dread them. I suppose because so much hinges upon such few words. I have a synopsis to write this week, but have made my mind up that I’m not going to fret over it. (Easier said than done, I’m sure.)

    Wishing you lots of luck C.B. This is an exciting time.


    • Thank you! I appreciate all the luck and well wishes. All the positive thoughts really do make this whole process a little easier to handle.

      Good luck with your synopsis – those can be tricky, too! You’re right not to fret over it . . . after all don’t we do our best work when relaxed? 🙂


  5. Good luck! Is Agent Query Connect a free or paid service? It’s great to have recommendations like this. More importantly, take care of yourself and try to minimize the physical impact of the stress, which we all are familiar with in one way or another!


    • Agent Query Connect is totally free! 🙂

      Today I decided to start all over again. I’ve learned a lot and its time to wipe the slate clean. I’m sure to stress out, but in a good way. I’m having fun along the way even thought the process truly is a challenge.

      Thanks for wishing me luck!


  6. Query Letter Torture – have you thought about approaching agents this way….
    two upcoming weekend workshops with agents – one for children and young adult coming in December and another for adult novelists in Spring 2012 (I think).
    Check out this website( http://www.magnus@henrymiller.org ). Both workshops, and many others, are held in Big Sur, California. The clincher is you have to have a manuscript written. Someday I want to participate…………


    • I haven’t ruled it out. I’m keeping my open for any workshops or conferences in my area, but so far nothing has shown up that fits my genre. At least I’ve got the hard part done – I have a completed manuscript. 🙂

      I decided to step back for a couple days before attempting another draft. Maybe if I let it sit for a bit I’ll be able to see it with a new perspective.

      Thanks for the link!


    • Thanks – I needed that. 🙂

      I actually stepped away from it for the whole day today. And I plan on letting it sit tomorrow as well. Once I get the previous drafts out of my head, I’m going to start from scratch. That way all I’ve learned is still jostling around in my head, but I won’t be as influenced by what didn’t work. 🙂


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