FQL: Fricking Query Letters
This is how I feel about fricking query letters: I’d rather move back in with my parents than write a fricking query letter. I’d rather run my fingers through Donald Trump’s comb-over than write a fricking query letter. I’d rather lick pencil shavings from Mel Gibson’s hairy ass than write a fricking query letter. Am I making myself clear?
In case some of you don’t know what a query letter is, it’s the letter you write an agent or editor asking them to please read your book about racially diverse penguins who roller skate and have meaningful sex with vampire robots while they save the world.
How do you summarize 70,000 words and several year’s worth of work into three paragraphs and make your story sound snappy, intelligent, marketable, different (but not too different), funny, moving, profound, and worthy of a Pulitzer? Writing query letters is the suckiest part of being a writer. And yet, a good query letter is more important than your fricking story. Seriously. No one will come to your peep show unless you dangle the right panties in front of his/her nose. Some like lacey pinks ones. Some like black silk. Some like crotchless. It’s a crap shoot.
Dozens of websites offer advice on how to write a winning query letter (I will list the ones I like below). Dozens of books and workshops offer instruction like hucksters selling snake oil. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill, no one way to write a query, but rather as many ways as there are agents and publishers because each individual will respond to something different. I can’t write your fricking query letter for you, but I will pass on a few things I’ve learned.
1. Write your bio. Write a 140-character bio for Twitter, a 50-word bio for your query letter, and while you’re at it, a 100-word bio for your author website. Then it’s fricking done. You only have to tweak it a bit when you publish or get an award.
2. Write your synopsis. Yes. It’s agony, but it’s the best place to start before writing your query letter. Write a three-page synopsis. Suck it in and then write a one-page synopsis. Cut off your right arm and then write a three-paragraph synopsis. Write well. Make no spelling errors. Have other people read it—folks who have read your fricking manuscript and folks who haven’t. Listen to what they tell you and make adjustments.
3. Do your research. Agency websites list their staff members and the genres they represent. Choose ONE from each agency. Then read the submission guidelines carefully. CAREFULLY! Follow the guidelines TO THE LETTER! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout. But all agencies/publishers have slightly different requirements so fricking read them.
4. Stalk your targets (I’m fricking kidding you). Look up them up on social media. Often these folks will Tweet or blog about things that irritate them like: I hate when people send me pink lace panties when I only like black lace panties.
5. Query one person at a time. Customize your letter to each individual you query. And for Godsake, proof your fricking query letter. Have other people read it. Proof it again. Then proof it three more times.
6. Save it. Save a hard copy and a file on your computer for each submission (including the date, etc.). Four months from now you may not remember who Melissa Mussen-Touchit from Slap Me Silly Literary Agency is when she emails you. She might just say, “Send the whole thing,” and you’ll be like, “What the frick did I pitch her?”
7. Send it and forget it. Often a sense of lethargy descends upon you immediately after you send a query letter. You find you are unable to write and you start checking your email every 20 minutes. Don’t do that. Move on. Write some fricking new stuff instead.
Finally, if you plan to avoid the query letter by rubbing elbows with agents at a conference, think again. Sure, they’ll love you and tell you your stuff sounds amazing, but in the end, they will say to you, “Send me a fricking query letter.”
Good sites in order of their fricking goodness: