The query letter is by far the most difficult 300 words I have every written.
Sometimes in school writing 250-300 words for an assignment took much longer than it should have. I know there were situations where I spent more time griping about the assignment than it took to write! By the time college came around, 300 words could be knocked out in a good 15 minutes. No big deal. Easy.
I have been writing my query for 10 days and I am still apprehensive about sending it out to agents. I have 7 saved drafts that I keep bouncing between trying to get as much information as possible without bogging down the letter. I know agents like it short, sweet, and compelling. My problem right now is that I’m stuck on the first couple of lines. The hook is the most important part, and that has changed about 18 times. I think the second half of the query is solid, but I need to be sure an agent is interested enough to get past those first 20 words.
The hardest part is letting the agent know that this book is not fantasy. I started the first couple query drafts with Charley being in her own world that no one could access, but of course that sounds like fantasy and not like hallucinations. Charley’s perspective is in a world of castles and dragons, but that “world” is all hallucinations/delusions. There are agents I want to query that I think fit the genre but do not represent fantasy. I think it’s clearer now in draft 7, but I think a draft 8 or even draft 11 might make the query read more smoothly.
I think I mentioned this before, but I want to personalize all of my queries to the agent. That of course takes up word count, but I think it’s worth it. I want the agent to know I am serious–that I did my research and that they know why I chose them.
These 300 words have been stressing me out. It is my one shot to make an impression and it has to be a good one. I know I can’t risk sending out an unpolished query on the hopes some agent will have the knowledge that my MS is better than it sounds. No. This query needs to be as compelling as the novel itself. That’s the challenge.
I am ready for this query to be done and interesting and for me to be eager to show it to the world. After it’s done I should probably think about writing a 2 page synopsis. Ugh. That might be even worse!
Today I spent a couple of hours on agentquery.com searching for potential agents for the next book, Charley’s Dragons. The hardest thing for me with this book is deciding the genre. It falls under New Adult fiction–that awkward balance between adults and teens–and has elements of fantasy although it is not a fantasy genre story. Finding the genre is obviously important in order to match with an agent. I eventually decided that CD is commercial fiction with fantasy elements and some women’s fiction issues. While I hate the term Commercial Fiction, it does fit what my story is the best. CD is written with heavy topics but in accessible language. I do not like to hide meaning with complex words and syntax. I want the reader to be able to engage with the story without worrying about what is going on.
So after clicking around, I read the profiles of about 115 agents to see if any of them would be the right fit. I like agentquery since agents are able to put down specifics of what they want and what their agency wants. Many of the agents had specific genres they wanted and sometimes they did not fit with my work. I also had to read carefully to double check that they were accepting queries and that they were not suddenly excluding certain genres.
Out of the agents I researched I chose 72. Out of those there are 2 or 3 I think would really like CD. Some of the agents I chose did not have any specifics of what they want/don’t want so I will need to look into them more. Others I took a risk with. Some of them do not want to represent fantasy, but everything else they wrote about fit with CD. I think I will end up querying them in hopes that they see that the fantasy in CD is based on a child’s hallucinations and not on a “real” fantasy world.
Every agent on my list I will need to re-visit on their agent pages and agency pages. I need to be sure that they are still accepting queries and to double check that they are still at the same agency! Sometimes people leave for whatever reason. I need to be sure I’m querying someone who will be available to read my MS. It is also necessary to see what each agent likes. I want to personalize my queries so that the agent knows I did my research. If they respect me taking the time to research them, then they should take the time to read my query.
My query letter is coming along. I’m not sure I’m going to send it out just yet. I want to be sure I am saying what I need to say but still keeping it to a page. Describing a whole book in 300 words is tricky. I will continue to adjust the query letter and maybe trim down the agent list. I am expecting to query at least 50 of these people. I’m preparing myself for a lot of rejection, but I know that’s part of the agent game. I am sure I will find an agent eventually. I am looking for constructive criticism from agents to improve what I have. I know CD is a good story, I just need to find the right representative.
Has anyone had any luck or difficulties with agents? I would love to hear about it! I know I self-published since I was frustrated the first time with The Healing Pool. Any comments/advice/etc. welcome here.
I am officially a Lawrence University graduate! Of course I could not resist a little shameless advertising 🙂
Now that my school work is over and I am home for the summer I have time to get to work querying the next book! The book is done and in its third draft. I will keep picking at it, but I know it’s time to start querying. I am actually going to post the first draft of my query in this post. Please understand that it is a first draft! I will customize it to each agent later on, but for now I am looking for some help on the real meat of the query. I am curious to know what people think about the query and if it sounds like something you would read. Thank you for your help and support!
Charley lives in two different worlds. Kingdom is where Fenn lives, her best friend who is also a dragon. Fenn protects her from The Evil, a monster that plagues Kingdom even though no one has ever seen it. Fenn knows that if The Evil discovers Charley that she will likely die, so she must do whatever he says to be sure that she is safe. However, no one back in Home understands what Charley is going through because dragons do not exist.
In Home, Charley’s mother Lily has to deal with her own dragons. As Charley’s delusions become more frightening Lily knows she must get help, but her abusive husband refuses to accept the fact that his child is sick. Lily’s only support system comes from her friend Ruby and Charley’s first grade teacher. With their help, Lily must find a way to confront her child’s illness and get away from her husband.
Charley’s Dragons is a 60,000 word novel following a troubled child and her family fighting to find out what is real and what is imaginary. While Charley’s perspective slips into the realm of fantasy, Charley’s Dragons is focused on realistic relationships and situations.
Linnea Garcia self-published her first novel The Healing Pool and worked with both Chris Eboch and Yellow Bird Editors to get the book to its final stages.
Thank you for your time and consideration.