A Book Un-Queried is just a Manuscript

If your experience has been anything like mine, finishing your novel was a day to celebrate your months (or years) of hard work, open a bottle of wine, and perhaps make a purchase of that semi-luxurious watch you’ve had your eye on for a while.  If new mothers receive a ‘push’ present now, shouldn’t writer’s get something similar when their novel is finished? But, much like new mothers who go through the difficulty of labor only to embark into the wonderful quagmire that is parenting a newborn, any writer seeking publication knows that when you finish, the query must come next.

Writing a query, to totally understate it, is a challenge.  You’ve spent so much time in the heads of your characters and the action of your story, making it as wonderful and well-edited as you can, and now you are being forced to condense all of the intricacy and passion into one paragraph, along with identifying the interests of each particular agent you query, on top of summarizing why said agent should assume you can write in the first place and even bother reading your pasted-in chapter(s) of your manuscript at the bottom of the e-mail.

It’s rough, confidence-deflating, and not to be done (at least in my case) without a volume of caffeine.  But it is essential to getting your work read, requested, and eventually published.

If you aren’t aware of Brenda Drake’s Query Workshops, the information posted on her site with sample queries and feedback from published authors is eye-opening and can bring you out of the abyss of your own monumental task of parsing your story into a hook.

Similarly, Writer’s Digest’s Successful Queries (if you’ve been following my posts, you’ll see why I selected them as one of the best new writer resources online; can’t seem to go a post without mentioning them) offers you queries that have resulted in agent representation by genre, along with the actual agent’s feedback on why they liked the query.

So, no excuses anymore–get querying!

Practice Makes (Pitch) Perfect

I wrote last time about some of the struggles that come with querying agents, in particular the difficulty of condensing your manuscript’s essence into just a few paragraphs.  Another unique difficulty of querying is the wait-time for feedback.  Agents are overloaded in their “slush” piles, and often (though certainly not always) it is months before you receive feedback.

One way to administer to the delay-induced anxiety caused by the querying process is to seek out more real-time feedback venues.  Twitter pitchfests are a great way to get at least some basic approval from an agent before you send your full query to them.  Often, a pitchfest or pitchathon involves composing one or a variety of tweets that summarize your manuscript (which is hard, but not impossible; I found the process to be much more fun than writing my query, partly due to the limited space reducing some of the ‘paradox of choice’ pressures present in querying itself–there’s only so much you can do with 140 characters) along with certain hashtags specific to the particular event.  Agents who are interested in receiving more information about your work will favorite your tweet and, usually in a prior tweet, describe the information they want to receive from  ‘favorited’ pitches.

A few to keep on your schedule are:

#SFFPit (June 18; tweet your Science-fiction and Fantasy pitches including the #SFFPit hashtag)

#WritePit (June 26, hosted by agent Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary)

#PitMad (next one coming September 10)

If you are away from your computer, TweetDeck offers easy options for composing and scheduling your tweet pitches ahead of time.  Just make sure to follow the rules for posting (usually 2 posts max per hour for multi-hour/multi-pitch events) so that you don’t overwhelm the feed.  For multi-hour/multi-pitch events, try composing several different pitches that summarize your manuscript and send them out at different times.

A few other events to keep in mind (even if they are not specific to Twitter):

#pg70pit (7/1 for MG, 7/2 for Teen, and 7/3 for NA and Adult titles)

#PitchtoPublication (June 29-July 3 for writers.  Make sure to review the bios of the editors before submitting–you only get to pick 5.)