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Row80 11-6-11 Check In: Is My Query Ready?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if it were as easy as grabbing the old Magic-8 ball and giving it a shake? If we don’t like the answer, we can just rattle the sucker until it gives us what we want.

Writing queries is as painful as pulling out nose hairs. And just as repetitive. My proofer worked hard and came up with a good query, but something in my gut told me it wasn’t quite right. Yes, the hook mentioned the Las Vegas tunnels, one of the really interesting points in INTO THE DARK. But it didn’t tell the reader anything about the main character or what she does to resolve the conflict.

So I went back to the drawing board, and I’ve spend the last THREE days writing and rewriting, then writing some more. I’ve written so many hooks they’re running through my head in my sleep. If you don’t believe me, ask Catie Rhodes. She’s read every one. I’d be lost without her.

Finally, FINALLY, I think I have it. The hook is interesting and does everything a query is supposed to do. It’s good, but is it good enough? The worst part about this whole process is that the only way to really know is to get the letter out there. And what if it sucks? Have I burned bridges with INTO THE DARK? I don’t know, but I can’t keep spinning in circles and loosing sleep over the bleepity-bleep.

The two people I trust the most with my writing (and I include brutal honesty in that statement) have endorsed the query, so I’m going to take the plunge in the next week and send it out to five agent and/or editors who accept queries only. My hope is that if I hear nothing, it means the query is no good, and I can start over. We’ll see how it goes. All I know is that I’ve done everything I possibly can, and it’s time to put myself out there.

Those closest to me didn’t miss the timing of my sudden query frenzy: it’s all come about since I got the news of my brother’s impending death. I didn’t have a clue until my friends pointed it out, but they’re right. The only way I knew how to cope was to throw myself into work, and then suddenly the clock started ticking. Life’s so damn short, and I could be gone tomorrow. I’ve got to move forward. So I’m dipping a toe or to into the query pool. Hopefully the experience isn’t too excruciating.

I want to thank you all for your kind words about Jeff. It’s amazing how much the support of people I’ve never “met” can have such a positive effect.

As for my Row80 goals, the query and editing INTO THE DARK for the last time (for now) is all I’ve done this week. My goals for Wednesday’s check in are:

* Finish the INTO THE DARK edit.
* Work on cutting my four page synopsis for INTO THE DARK down to one.
* Dive back into THE PROPHET and write at least 1000 words.
* Get the next Thriller Thursday written.

Again, thank you all for your support, and I hope you’ve had a great week. To all those rocking and rolling in NaNo, keep up the great work. I’ve seen some awesome word counts on Twitter.

How was your Row80 week? Do you have any tips for the dreaded query process?

40 comments on… “Row80 11-6-11 Check In: Is My Query Ready?”

  1. heatherishither

    I haven’t written a query before, but can imagine how crazy it must be. It sounds like you’re as ready as you’ll ever be (because you may never feel absolutely “ready”). Good luck! Fingers crossed for good news.

    Sorry to hear about your brother. That’s so hard. Hope your week gets better.

    • It’s definitely been crazy for me, Heather. IMO, it’s a different skill set than writing the book, and the frustrating part is that everything rides on the query. But that’s the way it is:)

      Thanks for the encouragement and kind words. It’s been tough but pushing along.

  2. I’m not sure that you ever feel something is ready when it’s that close to you. Bravo to you on getting it out there. I wish you and your brother all the best this week 🙂 Keep up the good work and good luck with your query!

    • Very true, Lauren. It’s so hard to know and then to stick to the decision. Thanks for the encouragement and well-wishes. Good luck to you this week as well:)

  3. I hate-hate-hate querying. That’s one thing I love about being indie – now I get to write product descriptions instead. Which is amazingly like query writing! Only instead of wondering, “Am I getting form letters/non-responses because my query sucks, or are agents just inundated?” I wonder “Are my sales lousy because my description sucks, or are readers just inundated?” LOL. All you can do is throw ’em out there, remind yourself that form rejects/non-responses are more likely due to the sheer number of queries the agents get, and work on the next thing. Really, it does help. Good luck on your goals, and keep up the good work!

    • LOL. That’s ironic. And you hit the nail on the head – that’s the worse thing about the query process. You don’t know if it’s the book or the query. I assume after getting nothing on the query that means you go back to the drawing board. I would have no idea how to go indie. To be honest, it’s more intimidating than querying. Thanks for the advice – I’m going to need it. And thanks for the encouragement!

  4. good luck with the query, it’s so hard to step back and see our work the way an outsider would. I’m glad you found an escape in your work and wishing you and your family the best.

    • Exactly! It’s really hard to know what someone else is going to find interesting. We know the book and think it’s all interesting, lol. Thanks so much – the week would have been hell without writing:)

  5. Here’s the best query tip I can give you. Let your MC write the synopsis for you and then change it to third person afterwards. It allows the voice of your manuscript to be in the synopsis and gives it a little something extra. When I rewrote my query for the 100th time, finally doing it this way, I got requests for fulls and eventually signed with my agent. It works!

    • Thank you, Kelly! That helps a lot and tells me the decision to start the query with the MC and not the antag is probably a good one. ANd since I’m going to be working on narrowing down the synopsis, your advice is perfect.

  6. Looks like you’ve gotten something you’re happy with, Stacy, so go ahead and put it out there. I like “the rule of 13”–if you put out 13 queries to agents you’ve researched and who seem to be looking for something like what you’re offering, then one should take a little bite. If not, tweak your submission package and send out 13 more. Don’t worry about losing the “perfect” agent because of a possible imperfection in your letter–s/he may look “perfect” for you on paper and in the interviews you’ve read, yet reject your project simply because she once had bad sushi in LA and just doesn’t want to engage with it again over the course of a book. Best of luck to you, and so sorry to hear about your brother.

    • Thanks for the great advice, Kathryn. LOL on your agent example. That’s the most maddening part of the process. I hadn’t heard of the rule of 13 but it makes great sense. I have just obsessed over the fact that I have only millisecond shot with each agent, etc. And I appreciate your kind words about Jeff.

  7. Ryan King

    Oh I hate writing queries! But alas, that’s how we hook others to read our stuff. Good luck with your sub.

  8. Congratulations on getting your query just right. Good for you for sticking with it until it’s right. You are so good about making lists and getting through them. I commend you! I am sending prayers to Jeff. It can’t hurt to have a collective group of online buddies sending healing thoughts his way.

    • Well, I hope it’s just right. That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Oh, thank you. My motivation comes in spurts. And thanks fo the prayers. He’s doing all right, just trying to get his head wrapped around it.

  9. Oh wow, I didn’t know about your brother, Stacy. I’m so sorry. I’ll keep you and him in my prayers.

    Good luck with the query. Remember, rejections are subjective and all you need is one yes. 🙂 You go girl!

    • Thanks, Angela. I’ve been meaning to ask you how you’ve been feeling. I hope you’re doing better. And you’re right, I’m going to have to work hard to remember that. Thanks again:)

    • Thanks so much, and thanks for the link. That is great advice. It gives me a sort of checklist to work from, which I love. Good luck to you, too!

  10. Queries are hard!
    I think you never really know when it’s ready or good enough. It’s like a manuscript … you never know when it’s revised and edited enough … you have to trust your gut … and try a few agents and see what kind of reaction you get. If all rejections, then you need to re-work it before sending to other agents.
    Keep it up! *shakes pompons* you can do it!

    • That’s very true. At this point the trick is figuring out which agents/editors to send it to. I’m working on that in this next week. Thanks for the advice and encouragement!

  11. I’m so sorry about your brother! I had no idea until I read this post. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Stacy.

    My decision to go indie has taken away the stress of the query. But I remember when I was thinking about those queries and wondering how in the world I was going to write a good one. Good luck to you with your query letters…I’m sure yours are great!

    • Thank you so much. It’s been a big shock even though we knew there was a good chance.

      Indie means self-publishing, right? That’s a big task, but I’m sure you’ll do well. Thanks, and good luck:)

  12. I’ve only queried a few agents, Stacy, so I’m not the one to ask. But I can tell you I totally hate it. I sent a slightly different query to each agent. Got two rejects without further ado, and one full read, followed by a three page reject. Now I am rewriting, and facing the query torture again soon. Ugh.
    Hang in there. 🙂

    • Well, at least you got a full. That means that particular query you sent has merit. And as far as the reject, that really sucks, but three pages…I hope that’s a positive thing. Getting that kind of feedback has to be helpful. Good luck on the rewriting and second round of querying! And thanks:)

  13. If Catie said your query is good. Yep. I’d trust her any day of the week. My greatest wishes to you for your success and you head into the query process.

    Just want to express my sympathies for you and your family in regards to your brother. Focus on the life and enjoy the times that you have with him. That helps the most in the long term. My heart goes out to you and may you find the strength needed for the coming days.

    • Thanks so much for the well-wishes, Gene. I think it’s now or never for the query.

      And I really appreciate the sympathies. We’re trying to take one day at a time and come to terms with it. I’m really glad I got to spend some time with my brother a few weeks ago.

      Thanks so much.

  14. Fantastic on sticking with it and pushing forward to get the query letter right. At some point, you gotta just let go, trust you’ve done your best, and push forward. And you are doing it. And that takes guts and bravery so…woot woot…shaking pompoms wildly for you!!!!
    And sending you and your family huge hugs and supportive thoughts as you continue through your journey…may peace always be with you…hugs!!

    • Thanks:) It’s probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve got to give it a try.
      And thank you for the hugs, it means a lot. Support from you all has been huge help.

  15. Stacey, I’m sorry about what you’re going through with your brother. I think it’s awesome that you’ve still been plugging away at your query despite the awful situation. Not many people could. Good luck with it when you send it out!

    • Thanks, Andrew. I think plugging away at the query was the only way for me to keep going. I had to have something to focus on. Thanks for the luck:)

  16. Wow. You’ve worked it and worked it and worked it. Great on taking action!
    My brother died a few years ago. I wish there was more written on this subject… it was a difficult time… luckily I have patient friends who spent stretches of time with me.
    Sending love and empathetic hugs.

    • Thank you so much. I’m sorry to hear about your brother and glad you had friends who were there for you. That can make all the difference:)

  17. I’m in your cheerleading section for the querying! You go, girl! It is hard to think about all that rests on that query and getting it just right, but I’m sure it’s good. So go with it.

    • Thanks, Julie. Yes, it really is, and there’s no right formula, really. Sometimes the ones that break the rules get the attention. Thanks for the encouragement!

  18. I am very far behind on my blog reading thanks to NaNo, but had to stop by and say congrats on getting your queries out. I have a good feeling about this!

  19. I think I would skip queries and focus on just selling the work on Kindle and Nook. If it proves there’s a market – then you will have agents chasing you. And you will have some $ and leverage.

    If you just send queries and wait – you gain nothing but anxiety. And more unknowns than knowns.


    • Thanks, Mark. I’m keeping self-publishing in mind, but I really want to try the traditional route first and see what comes of it. I know if I don’t, I’ll have a lo of regret.

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