Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Participate in Blogfests

Today I am participating in my first blogfest. Isn't that exciting? That's not my question for the blogfest, by the way.

This blogfest asks each participant to ask a question regarding writing, then we all get to blog hop and answer each other's writing questions. Participating in blogfests is an AWESOME way to connect to new people, build your readership, and just find out what the heck is going on out there in the blog world.

Here's my question: How do you decide if your query letter is working as well as it could?

Please feel free to share, even if you aren't participating in this blogfest, but then for you my question is: why aren't you?

28 comments:

Stephanie said...

Hi Laura,

I love this question. I think the very best way to decide if a query letter is good is to let others read it. A crit group open to reading queries would be great, but even family and friends work in this case. Yes, I know, we all say don't let family and friends crit your writing. But I think something as cut and dry as a query letter is not a big deal. Remember, you want their instant reaction. Tell them you need to know immediately after they've read it whether they would read the whole book.

catherinemjohnson said...

Don't ask me, I changed it after sending it out. I'm just grateful I'd only sent it to two agents. I came across a great post about hooks that helped me loads. Before that I was writing them like a super mini synopsis instead of like...you know a hook!

Alleged Author said...

After you've had it hacked to bits by others and you've rewritten until your eyes fell out of their sockets, you test the query bu sending it to 2 agents who you know are responders (and only require the query without sample pages). That's what I would do if I wondered about my query.

Loralie Hall said...

I definitely think get a second, third, and fourth set of eyes on it. But also, once you start sending it out, if you're not getting requests for more (and I've heard numbers anywhere from sending out 5-20-50 before doing this), maybe it's time to tweak a little more.

Deana said...

This has to be the toughest question! How do you really. I sure don't know. Query shark is what I plan on using when I get to that point:)

A.E. Martin said...

Feedback is the best way to know, have people whose opinion you trust read it. Let someone read it without giving them any clue what your book is about and ask them if they understand your story just from reading the query. When it comes to actually sending queries to agents, I've heard that if you test the waters and send it to a few agents first (preferably not your "top" agents) and judge the feedback you get from them, you can then see if your query still needs more work to become stronger and more enticing.

Theresa Milstein said...

Oh, query letters, how I loathe thee? I show them to people I trust. I write them over and over. If I'm lucky, I attend a conference and get a critique on it from an agent.

Emily Rittel-King said...

I think you know it's working when it excites you. If you read it and you're pumped to read your book again (for like, what? the bajillionth time) then an agent will feel the same way.

Lori M. Lee said...

I have to agree with everyone saying you need more eyes on it. Maybe even enter a query writing contest if you can. Then, as long as your manuscript is ready, send a few queries off and see what happens. If you get no bites then you should probably revise.

LINDY said...

Great question! I'm with Deana on this one--Query Shark. She's brutal, but oh, so honest.

alexia said...

Ditto Query Shark! She is awesome. And, Guide to Literary Agents has successful queries. And yes, have some people read it and see if it's as compelling as a cover blurb in a bookstore. And then, send some to your B or C agents first, in batches of 5-7 at a time. If you don't get any bites, time to revise!

Donna K. Weaver said...

I follow Query Shark, too. Brutal is a good description, but she's totally honest.

I haven't been brave enough to query yet.

McKenzie McCann said...

If you're always going for the superlative, you'll drive yourself nuts. My first query letter was AWFUL, but I still got a request for a full manuscript.
If you've got something worth reading, editors will see the potential.

Lora R. Rivera said...

Wow, tough question! I want to just bundle up everybody's comments here and ditto them: test readers, critiques, send to 2 agent-responders (great idea, Catherine!), hack it up and put it back together. I always like to give it to a non-writer type to see what they think or if they'd be interested to read more.

Kate Larkindale said...

Get it critiqued by people who haven't read the book as well as people who have. Then, once you start sending it out, see if you get any requests. If not, maybe it's the query. Especially if you're sending to agents who want a query only, without pages.

The East Coaster said...

Uh...my long response was just eaten by the internet monster!

I went to a query workshop a couple of weeks ago and the speaker gave this advice:
1. Send queries out in small batches of 4 or 5 at a time. If something isn't working, you can fix it.
2. If you're sending queries and not getting any requests for partials, something is wrong with your letter. You've not made your story interesting enough to pick up.
3. If you are asked for partials and getting stopped there, something is off with your writing technique.
4. If you're getting asked for manuscripts and then turned down, something is wrong with your story.

His words lit a fire under me. I went home and spent the few days rewriting queries for two of my books.

Andrea Mack said...

Lots of great tips here! To help get my queries right, I let my critique buddies read them. They point out all the places where I need more about my characters and their motivation, or the parts that are unnecessary.

JRo - Jaye Robin Brown said...

I like East Coaster's answer (except it makes me very depressed about my rejected partials).

For my latest query - I had help - sent out a few (which got good response) - but then realized I was still missing the heart of my story and tweaked once more - sent out one query - got a partial request - figure it works!

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Geeze, everybody has stolen my answer. Query Shark, find many readers, test it out on a few agents :)

Michelle Fayard said...

I tried to make my query letter as intriguing as the back cover or jacket flap of a book--enough information so an agent/editor could decide whether this is the book for them but just enough withheld to compel that person to read on. I sent off my first query this summer, so I'll see if this theory works.

And of course I had it critiqued by both those who had read the book and those who hadn't until both teams agreed the letter had them hooked. :)

Michelle

P.S. I left a response to your comment at http://michellefayard.blogspot.com/2011/07/i-just-had-to-ask.html.

Michelle Fayard said...

Hi, Laura, I'm following your blog, but I also want to subscribe by e-mail. However, I keep getting a server-not-found feedburner.com error message. When you get a moment, could you please add mefayard(at)yahoo(dot)com? I'd appreciate it! And if you could please let me know by e-mail that it worked for you, that would be the icing on the cake. Thank you!

Michelle

Nancy Thompson said...

Wow, that's a toughie. My first query letter garnered me 4 requests so I knew it was decent, but I also knew it wasn't perfect. I've written so many queries, experimenting along the way. I think I've come up with a good one, but then again, next week I'll likely write another.

I think what helps most is reading agent blogs and searching for their advice on queries. Stephanie DeVita's (Dystel & Goderich) post a couple of days ago inspired me to cut all the backstory crap out of my query and focus on the main plot points ONLY. I just blogged about this this morning.

I think it's just something you keep working on and refining over time according to your response and rejection rate.

Vicky Bruere said...

I agree with some of the other comments. Get it critiqued just as you would your manuscript.

Laura Barnes said...

Great answers, everyone. I guess I'm really more asking about how many responses from agents equals a good query. One? Two? 10%? I did all the above - had beta readers, had querytracker.net forum readers, did query help on popular websites, etc. I have gotten responses for fulls and partials, but I wonder if I should be getting more. Oh, I'm sure that's just the life of a querying writer. Always wondering... Sigh.

RAD - Dot Painter said...

The East Coaster nailed it! I also think going to conferences where you can pay a small fee to get your first 15 pages critiqued is a great way. They always comment on your included query.

Laura Barnes said...

Thank you RAD. I didn't realize the critiques at conferences included queries!

Angelina C. Hansen said...

I could have sworn I left a comment here on Wednesday, but it's not here! Sorry, Laura.

You've taken all the right steps. If you're getting requests for fulls and partials, your query is working.

"You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all the time. " Remember this saying?

Congratulations and I hope some of those requests turn into offers.

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, Angelina! I appreciate you posting again. I have gotten requests for fulls and partials, so I guess I'm doing well. As far as the query is concerned, anyway. Let's just hope the story holds its own as well!

Post a Comment

I love hearing from you! You can choose to comment as a guest or use any of the other login options available after you hit "Post As". Thanks for contributing to the conversation :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...