The very best query letter advice I can give

I’m going to tell you something you probably already know: Writing a query letter isn’t easy.

Seriously, it’s not even easy to write a bad query letter — trust me, I’ve been at this for a week, and after a ridiculous amount of research, feedback from my crit partners and multiple drafts, I still wrote a bad query letter. I haven’t worked this hard to be bad at something since 9th grade algebra.

Luckily, I had the sense to ask someone who’d written a successful query letter (the very generous Ryann Kerekes) for a critique before heading off to Dallas and submitting my letter to the DFWcon gong show. (Getting helpful feedback from a writer via email is so much better than having actual agents gong your query into the depths of hell in front of hundreds of people.)

What’s funny is that a lot of the feedback I got was stuff I knew, but I still managed to overlook it! You guys, I screwed up my hook. My hook! I know my story’s hook — after all, I wrote the story! I was so wrapped up in thinking about what makes my story unique that I failed to include what my story is about. Wow. But some of the advice I received was stuff I hadn’t heard elsewhere despite all my Googling and searching via Writer’s Knowledge Base. (<—- Use this. It will change your life make searching for anything writing-related so much easier!)

Basically, the only thing I got really right about my query letter was my bio (I do know myself at least). After reading the incredible feedback and tips I got, I made a few changes to my letter and this is how it looks now:

Yes, I’m going to scrap my letter and start from scratch, but I’m excited about it because I got some amazing advice and my new letter is going to be so much better because of it!! Who knows? Maybe I won’t get gonged until after my (corrected) hook is read aloud!

If you’re about to delve into the frustrating world of query-letter writing, here’s my best tip: Ask for help. If you know someone kind and generous who’s already signed with an agent and therefore knows how to write a successful query, there’s no harm in asking if he or she would be willing to read your letter. The worst they can do is say no, right?

Now, I don’t recommend bombarding Ryann with pleas for help — she’s a very busy writer! However, she’s giving away a query-letter review and a 10-page manuscript critique to one lucky commenter on this post. So go leave a comment right now! Do it!

After that, check out some of these posts that I refer to again and again for query advice:

Also, if you’re on Pinterest, I pin every single helpful writing post I find on my Writing Tips board, and lately there are tons of posts on query letters.

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Photo: dam/flickr