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?