(Like the perfect cocktail, the ingredients for the perfect query letter must be just right)
When I wrote The Lake Michigan Affair, the book I am currently querying, I didn’t set out to write a book that I would want to publish. I had written my first book, ever and had loved the process. My husband encouraged me to do it again, to write another book. I wrote The Lake Michigan Affair during NaNoWriMo. I had a loose idea of the story and the first sentence when I started. I knew Rosalie, the main character really well, her voice was strong.
When I finished the book, I walked away in awe of what I had created. I never thought I would write a book, let alone two, up to that point, and in a month no less! I edited the book and handed it out to my two trusted beta readers. I braced myself, just because I thought it was good, didn’t mean they would. They both came back with constructive criticism, a sign of a true beta reader, but overall said I needed to publish the book, it was more than good enough.
I have spent the past two years, editing and revising, making it as perfect as I possibly can to go out in the wide world. Finally, after much prodding, I decided to try to publish the book. I knew I wanted to go the traditional route. Leave it to me to take the more difficult route, not that any publishing route is easy. I began to read any resource I could get my hands on to start crafting my query letter.
The query letter is the letter that you send to a potential agent about the book you have created and who you are. Basically, it is the sales pitch for your book, the first of many. I started back in February, naively thinking I had written a great letter. I sent the letter out in earnest. The first draft of the letter held most of the components needed, in a loose order as they should have been put. If I am being honest, it was a trainwreck.
Here is where the irony comes in, I am working on a Master’s in Public Relations, I know how to study and learn, I write marketing pieces every day, yet I cannot seem to get this letter correct. I was commenting to my husband my distress at not getting that magical cocktail that is the query letter correct, and my deepest fear that my query letter is destroying any real chance that the book will even get looked at.
What is even more ironic is not being able to sell my own work in a letter. I write marketing pieces almost daily. I know that I really only have to get it right once! If an agent asks for the entire book or more pages, I know I have got the “query cocktail” right. Now, I am speaking completely out of my depth here, but I am hoping to only have to ever query an agent once. I have several books finished, and I do not want to go through this process for each one, I would like to be a wealth of work for my agent. This idea may be completely absurd, maybe each book has to go through the process each time.
As painful as it is, I could handle the work not being good enough but my fear is that the agents aren’t even getting past the letter. I continue to scour the internet for advice, tips, tricks. I am not a quitter and I know that the best things in life are earned. I am earning this, hopefully, each letter revision at a time. I feel like that famous line from, Game of Thrones, “You know nothing, John Snow,” but more like “You know nothing Jackie Thomas.”
There are no shortcuts to where I want to be, well maybe there are a few, but they are not in my reach. I can’t buy my way in, nor am I the child of any celebrity, so I am going to have to keep plugging away, head up, shoulders back and onward.
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