So Your Manuscript is Ready...But is Your Query?

Photo credit: vancouverfilmschool on Flickr
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve queried too early in the past. It wasn’t until recently, however, that it occurred to me that the dangers of querying too early don’t just apply to your manuscript—they applies to your query, as well. 

Writers spend months—sometimes even years—revising, and editing, and polishing our manuscripts until they gleam like the Walkie-Talkie skyscraper in London (except maybe minus the accidental death ray capabilities). What we sometimes don’t realize, however, is that we need to spend just as much effort making our query letters shine.

You see, the query letter is the first impression. It’s what agents and editors see before they even take a look at your initial pages—and unfortunately, if your query letter doesn’t grab their attention, chances are likely that many will never make it to your pages.

I know why it happens. By the time we get to the query stage, writers are usually itching to start the submission process. After all, we’ve spent loads of time making the manuscript near-perfect, and submissions are the natural next step. It’s scary, and exciting, and all-too easy to jump in immediately.

But if you take the time to get your query critiqued, if you make sure that your stakes are clear, your plot isn’t confusing and your premise is attention-grabbing, if you take your time to get your query right, your odds of success will be much better than if you jump in with the first or second draft of that query you slapped together last night.

Don’t rush and take your time to perfect your query. It may be difficult to restrain yourself now, but you’ll be glad you did later.

What steps do you take before sending out your query? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Is your query ready for submission? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses the dangers of submitting without a refined query. (Click to tweet)  
The dangers of querying too early don't just apply to your MS. (Click to tweet)


Jen Donohue said...

Yeesh, the query letter. I wish I'd learned about them YEARS ago; nobody saw fit to mention it in the writing classes I took in college. Or the writers and writing professors I engaged in conversation with regarding the fact that I was, in fact, writing novels.

So imagine my frustration when I learned that not only must I write a book, the bestest book it can possibly be, that in fact gleams in the manner you say (but also, as you say, minus the death rays. People would stop reading it, if that happened!), but I also have to write a letter, in 250 words or less, that adroitly sums up the blood and sweat on every page and makes people yearn to read the book.


Ava Jae said...

Yep, that just about covers it, death ray-free and all. Query letters are anything but easy to master, but thankfully, like our novels, we always have revisions to make them better. :)

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