As I sit here still biting my nails in anticipation, waiting for my readers to get back to me with their feedback, I need a distraction. What better next step for an aspiring author than tackling the dreaded Query Letter? It’s a form letter, sure. It’s a job application, definitely. It’s also the single most important piece of paper attached to my novel. The query letter will either be so good that an agent has to read the actual manuscript, or will blend into oblivion where it- and by extension, my novel- will rot in the slush pile, never seeing the light of day. No pressure.
So I start where any high-achiever would- the research phase. There are countless books and blogs written by publishing professionals on all the dos and don’ts for every aspect of publishing and I’m not going to pretend to be one of them. I can, however, recommend a few that I found particularly helpful and interesting for anyone looking. Miss Snark, the now defunct (yet still relevant) blog of an anonymous publishing insider, is harsh, entertaining, and insightful, not to mention terrifying to the first-timer. Nathan Bransford, an ex-agent turned literary civilian has a very straightforward and informative take on all aspects of the publishing industry. And Chuck Sambuchino, an editor and author, has created a fantastic resource for writers with the best selection of genre-specific posts and actual query letters that worked, alongside the agent’s notes laying out specifically why.
I’ve written a first draft of the hook and the meat of my query (which will be rewritten a thousand times over) and spent time cramming my brain full of tips and warnings, reminding myself to focus only on the positive. That’s one thing that I’ve thankfully already learned from the music industry. For every success story there’s another of despair. But if everyone focused on the despair instead of the success, we’d all stop trying, and where’s the fun in that?
Instead, I’m grateful for the friends who are helping me refine my manuscript, for the internet and its myriad free information, and most of all, for amazing people. Lee and I recently had the good fortune of meeting one such person who is single-handedly breathing new life into the tired process of DIY creation + commerce, reminding us why we create original art in the first place. It’s easy to lose sight of why we bother when saddled with the necessity to get it out to consumers, but when the message finally reaches a fan that feels a sense of connection to the author of that creation, the rest just melts away.