August 14th, 2009

books

letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 33
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: N/A

This is what happens when you go to 3 conferences in 5 weeks.

Which should be the end of this one, as brevity is the soul of wit.

But....

Brevity isn't always what it's cracked up to be. There are query letters that are, believe it or not, too brief. Only a line or two such as "enclosed herewith is my synopsis and the first five pages." Here's the thing: the synopsis is a tool; one that tells me the bones of the story. The first five pages (which I've come to find invaluable) give me a hint as to the hook of the story and the style of the writer. So, perhaps one might think the query brings little to the party. Not so.

The letter itself can convey a variety of interesting -- and helpful -- details. It can tell how the writer perceives their own work. Their attitude about both writing and publishing (often separate considerations). It can show their attention to detail and their level of professionalism. It can reveal whether the writer has done their research. Perhaps it contributes the author's credentials, their passion, or some combination thereof.

Remember the query is the appetizer that tempts us to sample the rest of the menu. And whetting the appetite can be a crucial part of the experience.