Thank you so much to everyone for weighing in on what you want on the blog. The people have spoken and holy cow you really want more stuff on queries? You sure? Well…….. okay….. If you say so!
In reality though, in the coming weeks I’m going to start mixing in more posts/critiques about pages themselves. I understand why people want queries queries queries because queries are the one part of the process that it feels like an author can really control and are the sort of frustration flash point. But in reality what matters most is your manuscript, and especially that the writing in said manuscript is “good.”
But what makes good writing good?
That’s what we’ll be getting at in the coming weeks. Preview: good writing is precise. That’s what I hope to illustrate.
In the meantime, huzzah, a query post!
Continuing in the series of things-you-should-do-instead-of-things-you-shouldn’t-do posts about writing a query, here’s another must do:
Focus your query on the work you are currently shopping and devote the majority of the words in the query to it.
Sometimes when writers have experienced a taste of writing success they feel this is going to carry the day in a query and focus almost exclusively on those accomplishments.
For instance, all of these things are good, solid writing accomplishments that you should be proud of:
– being accepted to and/or graduating from an MFA program
– placing in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition
– placing short stories with prestigious journals
– being nominated for a Pushcart
– self-publishing and receiving praise from strangers
Congrats! Very well done. But none of these things, at least for me, are going to result in a partial request on their own, and I wouldn’t make these accomplishments the focal point of a query.
Even if someone had a great deal of success and had been published and sold a lot of copies, I still need to connect with the current project the author is shopping if we’re going to successfully work together. That current project is what I want to know about. It’s what I’m going to be basing my decision on.
Yes, mention your accomplishments, but your current project should be the star of the show.
Mike French says
Good advice the rest of the stuff like past achievments should normally be in an attached cv
That said it really depends on who you are contacting, the best advice is to do some research on the editor or agent you are submitting to and see what they prefer.
It's a good thing I have no accomplishments.
Or just say, heck, I have twenty or thirty books out under a pen name, but now I want to go mainstream with my real name?
Anon 11:27: This works for me. There are agents and agencies that specialize in career moves.
Manstream, though, is tough taters to peel. But, I'm sure you have more of hook than that.
After five genre mystery novels in a series (the first of which was a finalist for an Edgar Award), it took me a decade to switch my old name off and have my new (same) name come back in an entirely different area of fiction.
Best of luck opening a new door! You're going to be a terrific find for the right agent!!
Courtney Odell says
What about sending the prologue with the query letter (as the first 5 pages)? That's a no no, right?
Nathan Bransford says
Answered farther up.
I think I'm going to quit writing and just become an agent. Why bother writing when I can make a living off someone else's talent?
Nathan Bransford says
I wish you the best of luck becoming an agent.
Probably, too late. But… Nathan, if you haven't finished your week's round-up yet, check out Terry Stonecrop's current blog post: advice on writing from Alice in Wonderland. It's coolio!
I don't put links in comments, but you can click (well above) on Terry's comment entry and get there in half a snickerdoodle.
J. T. Shea says
So I should leave out winning the Bonny Baby Contest?