Thursday, June 07, 2007

Query Critiques: A Wrap-Up

[Breathing a big sigh of relief.] Finished, done, the query critiques are all posted. First let me apologize for not getting to all of them. I just didn’t have it in me. But please do give me some credit. Originally I only promised five and in the end I did just a few more. I hope you were all able to learn something from my comments.

Before ending this little lesson I wanted to talk a little about some of the comments I received and about queries in general.

First things first, saying thank you. I know this raised the ire of more than one of you, and so of course I continued in that vein throughout my comments. It’s kind of fun when you all get worked up ;) The truth though. I couldn't care less whether or not you say thank you. So why did I put an emphasis on it at all? Simply because as a marketing professional (which is a great deal of what my job is) I think it weakens the message to try to thank your potential buyers before they’ve even done anything. With a critique my job wasn’t to praise you. It was to make your letter the strongest it could possibly be. Is it wrong to say thank you? Absolutely not! I love to thank people for the things they’ve done. However, when making a sales or marketing pitch it does weaken your message. And that’s all I’m going to say on that subject.

Second, and most important, you need to realize that there is no right or wrong to a query letter. A strong query letter is written in your voice, it grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want more instantly. When I read a query letter I should know exactly what a book is about in one paragraph or less. I should know who the author is and what her credentials are to write such a book and I should know how to contact her. The rest is a wash.

I hope you’ve learned from these critiques how to strengthen your own query and I hope you’ve also realized that, like writing a book, no one is going to be able to tell you exactly how it has to be done. That’s something you’ll have to learn on your own.

Good luck!


Bernie said...

Don't apologize. You gave us a free service that we truly appreciate. You apologizing is like us thanking you in a query.

Thank you.

Spy Scribbler said...

It was definitely helpful for me, and great timing. Thank you so much for doing this! (It's okay to thank you now, right?) ;-)

Dara Edmondson said...

All your comments helped a lot. I'll also say thanks now for your work and helpful advice!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the Query 101 lessons! I learned a LOT and have hopefully improved my own query.

Out of curiosity, what percentage of queries you get are actually good enough to request pages from?

Laura K. Curtis said...

Thanks, Jessica! These were very, very helpful.

Babe King said...

Yes, this was an interesting and helpful exercise, even though my query wasn't one of those chosen. It's always good to see the biz from an agent's perspective so we can meet their needs.
Thank you for sharing your experience.

Chisem said...

As the late George M Cohen said: "My father thanks you. My mother thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you."

Your critique of the KILBOURNE query was excellent.

To which I would like to add, "My wife thanks you. My cat thanks you..." well, you get the drift.

Anonymous said...

My query wasn't one chosen for critique, but I learned so much from those that were. Thank you for your time and input on these. A very helpful and generous thing you did. We all benefitted from it.

Again, thanks!

Grace Draven

MsSnarkyPants said...

Thank you so much for doing this. You really went above and beyond the call of duty here, and I really learned a great deal from reading your critiques.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see a nonfiction query letter critique. I enjoyed reading the fiction queries, but as a nonfiction writer, I'd be very interested to hear your opinions on some nonfiction queries.