Saturday, May 4, 2013

Query Hell

Two of my friends and critique partners, Shannon Alexander and Jason Beineke, are going through query hell right now. For those of you not familiar with the publishing process, that's where you boil down your whole book into three or four paragraphs designed to make a literary agent slather and chomp at the bit to represent your work. It's quite possibly more difficult than writing the whole book. In fact, this is how querying made me feel:

Photo by reubens
I struggled and struggled with the query for my debut novel, ASHFALL. After almost two weeks of work, it still sucked. Here's how I finally wrote an ASHFALL query that generated requests, and what I suggest you try if you're mired in query hell:

1) Go to the library (this is a good start to nearly any list of things to do, by the way).
2) Sit down in whatever section includes your kind of book (young adult fiction, for example).
3) Pull a random book off the shelf and read the flap copy.
4) Write a query in the style of that flap copy.
5) Repeat until your brain starts to leak out your ears (I wrote about 40 of them).
6) Write a new query that mashes up all the best words, phrases, and ideas from your imitation flap copy.

That's it. Hope it helps. One word of caution: I'm not the best person to take query advice from. EVERY agent who saw ASHFALL turned it down at some stage: query, partial, or full. I wound up getting an editor to read it through a personal connection, and I'm still not represented by a literary agent. So I hope your mileage varies from mine for the better.

Any other great advice for queriers? Let me know in the comments, please.