"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Informal Formal Query Letter

Sorry, Blogger is playing hide and seek with my followers and twitter updates. Hopefully, they will come back soon.

I started to write my query letter for an old novel that I had written nearly 5 years ago. I took that old novel off the shelf back in May. The book has been dusted with revisions and edits.
I queried this novel some years back and even entered it in a contest. There was some success with the very businesslike query, but all in all, I got rejections on the manuscript. I had stuck that book on the shelf until just recently. I’ve studied and learned from the bits of information in the rejections that I had received. I’ve been studying the craft seriously for several long years now—which I didn’t do before. Now, it feels like new book.  
I’m thinking that the query format I used before is too businesslike. Since I queried this novel last, I have read many, many different writer's blogs on the subject, and "how to write" a query letter from different agent’s blogs. I’m at the – too much information stage. I’m frozen.
Before, I always believed that this was a business, so I queried from that perspective. As I read about "how to write" a query letter to an agent, I am utterly perplexed. I’ve come to learn that there are so many different ways - not too formal and not too informal - and I’ve even heard that there is no right way.
What I do know is that I want to address the agent in the proper manner. I should query the book like the descriptions on a book jacket—make them want to read more. In a nutshell, I need an awesome 1 page query and short bio including publishing experience.
Now how do I get from here to there? I’m working through that. It's exciting and scary all at the same time.
It’s funny because querying a magazine article is so different from querying a novel. I don’t feel perplexed when I query historical articles. The procedure is much more straight forward.

Now I ask you... 
Any writers with query success: please feel free to leave any good tips. Any good advice would be much appreciated.
Anyone who is nearing the querying stage: Are you ready? What are you doing to get ready?
I would love to hear from you.
Between, you me and the gatepost,

I apologize for being in and out of touch for the last few weeks. I know I’m not alone in this. The summer has been a busy and demanding one with faith, family, writing, and work. Hope you’re all having the best summer ever! Take a look at that awesome full moon tonight! With that...I leave you with a picture of a moonflower from my garden.

Moonflower - Photo by Loree Huebner


Jessica R. Patch said...

Love the flower! Summer has been filled with all kinds of busy-ness. You're off the hook. ;)

There's so much info out there about how to query, it's brain overload.

I have read that the tone of the query should be similar to the novel. I know, that helped bunches, huh? lol

Brandi said...

Hi, Loree! My queries read like the blurb on the back of a book. Then the second of third paragraphs went into business mode, talking about number of pages, where it fits in market, etc. I know you have information overload, but I found that Gail Gaymer Martin's query letter samples work well. Hope this helps! :-)

Loree Huebner said...

Jessica: I do have query brain overload! Thanks for your tip. I think I do have the tone like the book. It's a inspirational historical so it works. Thanks for stopping in.

Brandi: The blurb thing...I've heard that's important to sound like the blurb on a book jacket--then comes business mode. I think mine was the other way around. It was business first. I think that may be the problem. Thanks for your helpful tips and Gail's query samples. I'll check them out. Have a great week.

K. Victoria Chase said...

Hi Loree!

Thanks for following! I'm following you now too. :)

My queries are formatted into 3 parts. Part 1 is the technical stuff: "I'd like to submit my word count, genre, title, if part of a series, for your review."

Part 2 is paragraph 2 going into the blurb Brandi mentioned. Sometimes this may be 2 (short) paragraphs with the first describing the hero and heroine and how they meet and the second paragraph describing what is at stake.

Part 3 is a brief paragraph of who I am, and the answers to whatever questions the submission guidelines ask, ie: Why would your book fit XYZ publisher?.

Nothing wrong with businesslike; many blogs will tell you that authors need to treat this stage as an interview and put their best foot forward. This is a business. Part 3 adds a personal touch to the query.

Hope this helps!

Loree Huebner said...

Tori: Great to get to know you!!
Your query outline is awesome...very helpful! Thanks for popping in and taking the time to write that out for me. Congrats again on your recent success!

I'm getting some real great advice from some awesome writers.

Charissa Weaks said...

I am totally NOT at this stage yet. But I give kudos to you for being persistent. Maybe you could just take it on a case by case basis? Read up on the agent, get a feel for them through a blog they might have or read some interviews they've done? Knowing who you're dealing with might help you figure out how to word the query. Also...Check out Savvy Authors and see if they have a Workshop coming up that could help. They are cheap and done online. Best of luck, sweets!!

Loree Huebner said...

Charissa: Thanks for the encouragement. I've been doing everything listed but still feel frozen and overloaded. I've been down this road before...I don't know why it feels different this time. Thanks for stopping by!

Kathleen Boston McCune said...

Thank you so much for visiting my blogsite and noting you had been there....means the World to me. I do hope you purchase Serenia's Kanzas since it not only includes the Civil War but a very strong romance such as what you and your handsome husband obviously share. Congrats on a great job with your son....Well done you.

Loree Huebner said...

Kathleen: Welcome here! Thanks for stopping in and your kind comments.

Your book sounds great. Can't wait to read it.

Rachel Brooks said...

It's a dance trying to balance professionalism without sounding stuffy in a query letter. You still want to include a proper business greeting like "Dear Mr. Smith" though. I assume you've heard this before, but never say "Dear Agent" or "To Whom It May Concern." Personalize it :)

You want to pull the reader in, which in this case is the agent. You want your query to read similar to your book. For instance, if you write funny middle-grade, it would be perfectly fine to use some of the same tone and phrases you use in the book. I did this for my MG comedy query letter (which landed me my agent).

It gives the agent and idea of what the book will read like, makes it interesting, and prevents your query from being too stuffy or business-like. Whatever the genre, you can breathe life into your query by showing some of your writing style IN the query.

If you don't have any previous publishing experience, you don't have to SAY that. Your lack of mentioning your publishing experience will clue them in that you are a debut author.

Loree Huebner said...

Rachel: It really is like a dance. I know the basic steps, but since I've last danced...there is a new version of the dance.

I'm having trouble with the "make it sound like a blurb on a book jacket" part. It's coming along. I'm working through it.

I really appreciate you taking the time to give me some awesome tips. Especially, the one about showing my writing style in the query.

All you guys are great! Everyone is giving awesome tips on query letter writing. Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Nice Moonflower. I got one but it seems to be pinkish. I don't know why but it was so dry last summer the blooms were not big.

Loree Huebner said...

Abe: Thanks. I grew that one from seed. I start them inside in April.

I've also got 3 hummingbirds. One gorgeous male, and two battling females. I'm going to try to get some good pictures of them feeding on the feeders this week.

Tana Adams said...

Good luck to you in your querying endeavors! I'm sure you'll hit it just right! Make sure to put enough of you in it to make it interesting!

Loree Huebner said...

Tana: Thanks a bunch for your encouragement and tip. Wishing you well on your success...you go girl!

Jen Daiker said...

What a fabulous post Loree! I'm a newbie here on your blog and I'm very happy to have met you!!!

Querying is tough. You want to keep your personality but also want to remain professional.

Query to the Call by Elana Johnson is what I used. It was an AMAZING guide. It's a free pdf that gives you the step by step process on how to write one. After testing out my querying I went on Query Shark and checked out all the negative and positive queries and re-wrote it again. Once I thought I finished a good one for me I practiced on movies.

That's right. Take a movie you love and write a query for it. Don't add their names (make them up) and hand it over to your friend. Ask them if they know what movie it is. If they can guess the movie chances are you're getting better at showing. It helped me a ton!

Loree Huebner said...

Jen: Welcome here! Thank you so much for your great tips. I'll check out that "Query to call" - lots of good ideas here. The Shark is awesome! Never thought of practicing on a movie I like...great idea. Thank you so much for taking the time to write some great tips.

I've been at these crossroads before...this time, it just feels different. I want my query to be really good this time.