query letter revisions- overcoming insecurities

query letter revisions- overcoming insecurities

I finished my debut novel this past summer, and now I’m looking for an agent. Using QueryTracker, I’ve sent out a total of ten query letters to date, and I’ve majorly revised the letter four times since beginning the process a couple of months ago. Unless I have another specific spark of inspiration, or an agent gives me feedback on what I can change for better success, I’ve decided this is my best, final version.

Revising the query letter as we continue to query agents is part of the process. I decided I’m done revising now, however, because I’ve done the best I can to relay the story, and whatever doubts I have in finding an agent come from my protagonist. She’s a stay at home wife and mother in a midlife crisis, and I’ve attended enough writing conferences to know this is a character the publishing world (in general) thinks it has seen enough of… but I don’t think the publishing world has given her enough credit for the amount of readers who can relate with her… instead, the publishing world tells us to write unique protagonists with fresh twists.

I’m all for something fresh! But there’s something to be said about a protagonist finding her way out of the everyday rubble into everyday twists of happiness. My protagonist finds her fresh life by doing serious redesign work on herself… and leaves her marriage for a younger man but circles back to her ex-husband to rebuild their relationship, as the new people they’ve become. Not the most popular story for those who have divorced, I know. But Livy, the protagonist, has her own path, and for her that path leads her to go forward with her ex-husband.

Interesting how the essence of my novel’s storyline made its way into the process of sending out query letters. What I mean is, Livy, the protagonist, fights through insecurities to become her best version. Well, I’m finding that while I reach out to agents with this query letter, I’m fighting through insecurities of my own, to revise my letter and put my work out there.

Obviously, Livy is a character worth my time, otherwise I wouldn’t have spent years finishing her story. So I shouldn’t discount that, and I’m not. I’ll give it my best shot, to find an agent with this novel, and if it doesn’t happen, I’ll self publish and promote it while writing my second novel.  

One look at this website and you’ll see this guy knows the business. Take some time to review his steps for writing a query letter, along with his invaluable examples to keep us on track! Click here then scroll down.

(There’s also fabulous advice on query letter construction in a separate post, where Kelley Lindberg gives us pointers on the Hook, Book, and Cook strategy.)

Now that we’ve read Nathan Bransford’s info and implemented it as best we can, if we continue to receive rejection letters, which is usually the norm, keep reading to get good advice on keeping ourselves strong and resilient while querying!

Click through to this author’s blog for details under each tip given below.

These are her main bits of advice on taking care of our mental healt while querying:

1. prepare your heart for rejections

2. take mental health breaks

3. analyze your manuscript with a critical eye

4. celebrate wins, no matter how small

5. explore all the available options

6. decide when it’s time to shelve your manuscript

7. don’t give up

Click here to read her good advice for each tip.

And remember – we do this because we love it, because we need to!

query letter workshop

query letter workshop

In prep for writing my query letter, I found a workshop offered through RMFW here in Colorado. Perfect timing! A good in-person brush up is exactly what I needed and it didn’t disappoint.

The workshop speaker Kelley Lindberg,  volunteers on the RMFW board and oversees the organization’s blog. She’s been published a lot, both in fiction and non-fiction, and for the workshop, she focused on query letter writing for fiction.

As painful as query letter writing can be, we just have to dig in and re-work it until we’re happy with our letters. As part of the workshop, we were asked to read our letters aloud for a group critique. I volunteered to go first. Might as well get the pain over with! Ha.

Surprisingly, I received positive feedback and helpful tips to make it better… encouragement I was hoping for but definitely not counting on. Let’s dig into Kelley’s material on query letter writing.

A query letter must convice the publisher/agent of two (and only two) things:

1. This is a killer story

2. You’re the best writer for the job.

After the salutation, the three main components of the letter are hook, book, and cook. 

Let’s take a look at these components now:

First of all, with the salutation, give your reason for querying them and any connection to them. So, basically you are personalizing it appropriately.

First Paragraph (The Hook)

Plunge the editor into the topic/story.  Fiction: introduce the main character, a pivotal moment, and what’s at stake. Highlight a scene: jump immediately into the heart or main conflict of your story. Show the voice it was written in.

Paragraph Two (The Book)

Introduce the protagonist’s world, the broader story arc, their goals and their obstacles. Briefly describe the overall story. Don’t be vague! Include title, word count, and genre. Why is your story interesting and different from similar stories? If appropriate, use key facts or figures to show you’ve done you’re research. Make this paragraph exciting and interesting.

Paragraph Three (The Cook)

Who are you, do you have any publications, and what makes you an expert? Why is your story unique? Compare to recently published comparable titles (comps). Describe any relevant experience. Mention any previously published writing, writing awards, and writing organizations. If you are only selling specific rights, like reprint rights, say so. If this story has appeared online IN ANY FORM or in another publication, say so. OK to say: “This is the first book in a planned series,” or “This is a standalone book but has the potential to be a series.”

End with a polite, “Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Your Name.”

Include your phone, email, and social media handles.