Friday, August 24, 2012

Unscary the Query!

Tuesday night I attended a webinar given by the fabulous agent Sara Megibow, of Nelson Literary Agency. It was based off of her popular twitter series #10queriesin10tweets. If you follow Sara, you will probably be familiar with this.I really enjoy reading when she does these. Us unpublished, unagented authors can easily become obsessed with any information that we think might give us an edge in the game. Even though the tweets are fairly vague (she can't legally give too much away, queries are private) it makes us feel like we're doing SOMETHING to send us further in the right direction.

Because people are so into it, Sara put together this webinar. If she does it again, I suggest you attend and enter your query. You never know, right? And the least that might happen is that you will learn something. Here are a few things I took from the class. Oh, and follow Sara HERE.

(To be clear...these are my thoughts based on the info given! :))

1. The writing is the most important thing. I know, I know. You've heard this so. many. times. But think about it. You are-in essence-submitting a professional letter to an agent to CONVINCE THEM YOU CAN WRITE A BOOK!! So of course the writing is the most important thing! If you can't put together an intelligent thought about your book, why would they believe you can actually write your book?

2. The hook has to be good. With no hook, there is no interest. Without good writing, the hook won't be clearly expressed. You're book might very well be amazing. It might have an excellent hook, but if it isn't clear and well written in your query, you can forget about it!

3. The hook should involve WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY. All of these are important. There were some beautifully written pieces that described the character and their deep emotions. She said they were well written....BUT, what happens to these wonderful characters? What do they DO? There has to be a story. An interesting character does not a book make.

4. Good writing is not subjective. We like to coat our gentle feelings over rejections with thoughts like "this is a subjective business." I understand, and in some ways it is. Genre is subjective. Character types might be subjective. However, good writing is not subjective. Any agent will know good writing when they see it. Perfect your craft and someone out there will probably be interested in your work.

5. In addition to number 4, do your research. Since agents like to rep what they like, (subjective) make sure you are querying the right people. Do not waste that agents time (and ours, those of us who ARE doing the research) by mucking up the slush pile with your query that is for sure not a good fit. Agents submission guidelines are not hard to find. Don't think you will change their mind.

6. The slush pile is brutal. I'm going to be honest, all the queries read in the webinar were pretty darn good. On any given day if I'd picked one up ALONE, I would probably have positive things to say. That being said, when we went through query after query, it was really easy to see how it could get boring. Things didn't sound interesting, characters started to resemble each other, and good all blended together. You have to make yours stand out. You do that with good writing, a great hook, and  being sure that it's the right genre for the right person.

7. If you're not getting requests....go back to the manuscript! To paraphrase Sara, once your book is written well, and edited to it's potential, it's easier to clearly pinpoint the hook and express it with your practiced writing.

I learned a lot, and really enjoyed it. Sara was fun, engaging and very passionate about the business. Agents are people, and they want to find beautifully written stories. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Querying, waiting and getting rejected is hard. Really hard. But if I had to put all the advice I've accumulated over the past few years from other authors into one piece of advice, it is this. Don't. Give. Up.

I'm not going to, and you shouldn't either. If you keep reading, writing, and working hard, it will happen.

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