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Writing a Fiction Query

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message 1: by John (new)

John Cicero | 71 comments Mod
Here are some points I have found useful to consider when pitching your novel in a query letter.

Keep It Brief

One page is best. Two pages are acceptable unless the agent’s guidelines ask for one page. Then it had better be one page. Using 8-point type to fit more on a page is not an option. Use at a minimum 10-point type in a standard font such as Times or Times Roman. Bookman is good, but keep in mind that 10-point Bookman is larger than 10-point Times.

NOTE: I have found many editors and agents prefer manuscripts to be typed in 12-point Courier. (This may vary per agent - make sure to check their guidelines before sending)

Some agents accept email submissions, but they will not accept attachments. That means everything you send must be dumped into an email. Unless the agent specifies email submissions only, you can send the query packet the old-fashioned way so you can control the formatting and presentation.

• Letterhead: With a computer you can make your own letterhead, but if you send a lot of queries, you might want to treat yourself to a professional print job on quality paper.

• Content: In a query letter you have about five paragraphs with which to pitch your project. The agent doesn’t want to know how much your mother likes your book, or how many cats you have. The agent wants to know:

1. What the genre of your novel is, its title, its word length, and the gist of the story.

2. Why you are competent to have written it.
(If your project is a novel, don’t query an agent until the novel is as complete and as error-free as you can make it and has been critiqued by at least three competent fellow writers or editors.)

3. Your writing background and experience. If you don’t have any published writing to mention, then include some other indication of your professionalism: writing conferences attended, writing courses taken. If you have absolutely zilch, remain silent on the subject. Your writing will have to speak for you.

4. How they can contact you if they are interested?
Believe it or not, some people send queries and even entire manuscripts to agents without including a return address.

After you have provided a brief synopsis of your project (paragraphs 1 and 2), an indication of your novel’s genre and length (paragraph 3), some information about yourself and your writing credentials (paragraph 4), close the letter with a final paragraph in which you thank the agent, offer to send your completed manuscript, and sign off. If you are sending queries to several agents, you may wish to tell the agent that your query is a simultaneous submission.

NOTE: Before writing your query, while writing your query, and after having written your query, study the agent’s submission guidelines. Make triple-sure that your query conforms to them, and that you have spelled the agent’s name correctly.

message 2: by J. (new)

J. Guevara (jguevara) | 14 comments We're living in the age of cyber communication, and agents/publishers are still using pony express submission guidelines.

message 3: by Terry (new)

Terry Odell (terryodell) | 38 comments And if you're e-querying DON'T cc dozens of agents on the same query letter. People actually do this. Immediate rejection! One email per agent.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

message 4: by J. (new)

J. Guevara (jguevara) | 14 comments good point, Terry. agents don't cc their form rejections, although I'm surprised none has thought of that, so you shouldn't cc your form query, though I'm not surprised some do.

Do you think maybe writers are beginning to see how ridiculous this whole game has become? Maybe after Publishing gets through it's so-called, 'transition period', things will get back to normal and agents can get back to their old job, selling real estate.

The ones that survive will be worth contacting, and it sure as hell won't be by query, or any pony express submission guide lines.

If I wanted to jump through hoops I'd have joined the circus.

message 5: by Terry (new)

Terry Odell (terryodell) | 38 comments Depends on your goals--if you want to get into a major NY publisher, you need an agent. Until that changes, they hold the cards--or hoops, to use your analogy.

message 6: by J. (last edited Sep 12, 2010 10:00PM) (new)

J. Guevara (jguevara) | 14 comments It's already changed; they don't hold the cards. They only have many believing that they do. But if some want to continue paying that game, knowing that the deck is stacked, fine. Occasionally, someone gets lucky. It's all part of how they play the game. If nobody ever wins, eventually nobody will play.
But, like you said, it depends on your goals. Who am I to say? "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't."

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