|Oscar Wilde, photograph by Napoleon Sarony|
The query process is understandably terrifying. In fact, I’m pretty sure they use it as a torture device in some countries. And that’s even before you jump online and find out that every agent has a slightly different idea of what makes a good query and every discussion forum has a different formula and next thing you know you’ll find yourself checking yourself into an asylum as a precautionary measure.
Lost in all of this is perhaps the most important element of the query: YOU.
You! The writer! The personage! The prodigiously talented talent!
A few months back, Jessica Faust at BookEnds had some terrific advice: don’t try and write a query that will appeal to everyone, write the best query you can that will appeal to many.
Not only is this terrific advice, it doesn’t just apply to queries – in fact I would carry this forward to the actual writing as well. It doesn’t work to write the book that you think you should write or that you think is what the market wants or that everyone in the world will like. Don’t try to write for everyone, write for many. And that “many” can be just as many people as you want.
And it doesn’t just apply to queries and manuscripts, it applies to how you conduct yourself and think of yourself as a writer. Sometimes I think people get so nervous about doing the wrong thing they button themselves up and hide away their real self. And sure, put on some nice clothes and put your best foot forward, but don’t lose yourself in the process. If someone doesn’t want to work with the real you, trust me, you don’t want to work with them either.
Queries, manuscripts, correspondence: the absolute best thing you can do is to just be yourself.