Friday, August 26, 2011

Just DO It (query that is)

by Sophie Perinot

I am a long time member and BIG time fan of AgentQuery Connect. For those aspiring writers who do not know AQ, run don’t walk to the website as it is a fantastic source for information on every step of the road to being repped and published, a very supportive writing community, and (most importantly for the purposes of this post) a good spot to get feedback on a query letter before you send one out.

Now anyone who’s ever drafted a query letter knows it takes time. The letter is a vital sales document. Write it well and you snag the interest of an agent and a coveted request for a partial or full. Write it poorly and you may never even warrant a form rejection. Writing a good query is not easy (there are hundreds if not thousands of articles and blog posts offering advice on how to compose a good letter). BUT should it really take months and drafts in the double-digits?

At the risk of aggravating many I say no. In fact I say, NO, NO, NO. What I’ve noticed, watching query critique threads over the months and years, is that many writers become paralyzed by fear and good intentions. Writing their query becomes a Sisyphean struggle (you remember, the guy who had to push the big rock up the hill over and over) and in the process time, enthusiasm and confidence can be lost. At some point the incremental improvements their letter is arguably making are not worth the agony. More than this, letters can lose voice (see my opinions on this topic in an earlier From the Write Angle post). Looking at critique threads with ten, twenty, thirty, even fifty versions of a single query, I want to scream GET ON WITH IT, or SEND THE DARN THING. But that kind of verbiage in individual critique threads would hardly be appropriate.

So I am saying it here. Just DO it. Query. I am not saying send your first draft. I am not saying don’t seek critique. I am saying all things in moderation. How many drafts of my letter did I do—maybe four. How many people did I show it to for review before it went out? Five (and two of them weren’t even writers). Did it work? More than uncommonly well (I had a very high request rate, snagged an agent I adore and now have a publishing contract). Could my letter have been better? Sure. But if I were still working on polishing it, then my book wouldn’t be coming out in March 2012 would it?


JeffO said...

I think you make a great point here, Sophie. One of the things I notice about the 'Share Your Work' section over at Absolute Write is the massive amounts of feedback some pieces receive, and the conflicting information often contained in that feedback. As beneficial as those sites are, I wonder if you're really better off trying to get help from a smaller, more select group of people.

Great post, thanks!

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Great point! I think there's something to be said for doing all of the preparation you can and then trusting your gut instincts.

Sophie Perinot said...

I think small is good AND gut is good. On thing I know for sure -- the only book that has NO chance of selling is the book that is never queried

Christopher Hudson said...

I've traded sending query letters for marketing my indie published work ... both are a lot of work, and so far the results have been the same.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love it! When I've finished polishing my ms, I'm going to look to you to kick my butt to get me querying! :)

Ron Smith said...

Great advice. And you really have to trust your gut, too.

Nice blog you have!

Charmaine Clancy said...

I agree. At the end of the day it's your manuscript that matters most.
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Leslie Rose said...

You're so right. We can overwrite our query into dust particles. It can always be tweaked if you aren't getting responses.