This past April, Folio Literary Management launched a blog with this post on query letters. It’s really interesting, and something I’ve been thinking about on and off ever since.
Writing a novel takes a certain set of skills, and writing a query letter takes a completely different set. Every writer who has written a query knows this. And it’s hard. Really hard. So hard that we can go through a zillion drafts and still not be happy with the end result.
Folio’s blog post basically states that a good query letter is the natural evolution of the writing process, unless the author is too daunted by this process. He goes on to say that his favorite queries are the ones with the writer’s individuality and flair, with unique voice. I stared at this sentence for a long, long time, saying “hmm” to myself.
And then it hit me: Good queries are written with extroverted tendencies. It’s not all professionalism and business-like politeness. There needs to be something extra, a spark, a tiny piece of you, the writer. This is something that extroverts can do easier than introverts, simply because of the nature of their interactions with people.
Except there’s a problem (you probably see where I’m going with this). In order to be a writer, you need to be able to handle long hours by yourself. Introverts handle that better than extroverts, and most of the writers I’ve met are introverts – an occupational hazard, I guess. And, that probably means that most of the query letters floating around are more to-the-point-business-like and less personal-touch-business-like.
I’m an introvert. I’m also shy. To be clear, introvert does not equal shy. It’s simply the method you use to recharge your batteries. If you need time alone to do it, you’re an introvert. If you need time around people to do it, you’re an extrovert. Anyway, I’m an introvert and I’m also shy. This makes me difficult to get to know right away. Really difficult. People have commented on how much of myself I hold back. And, even when I decide to let go, I inch myself out there. It takes forever. Can you guess what my queries looked like? Yep, all dry and boring-ness.
That said, and even after reading Folio’s blog post, I still couldn’t sit down and put Me on the page. So, I chose an alternative: I put my main character on the page. Yeah, okay. Technically, you could say that I’m still putting myself on the page because all my characters come from different aspects of me. But, in my brain, it wasn’t me. So I could do it. That may freakish and stupid, but it worked.
So, the next time you sit down to write a query letter, make sure you add that little extra something to spark an agent’s or editor’s interest. If you can’t do it yourself, then make your characters do it for you. :)
EDIT: As Beth requested, here's a copy of my altered query. I took out anything that might identify where I sent this (including whether it went to an editor or agent), because I don't like advertising my submissions info. I focused on putting in that "spark" in the story summary, though I tried to put a little in the first paragraph as well.
Many of my favorite books have crossed your desk. Title#1, Title#2, Title#3, and Title#4 to name a few. In all of these books, the main characters are determined and strong, yet have a softer – sometimes naïve – side to their personalities. The main character in my YA novel, ROYAL ROSE, has the same qualities. Her story deals with something most teen girls struggle with: weight and image. She must deal with this on a greater level, however, since her family has been famous for their beauty for the past one hundred years.
Fifteen year old Rose Connolly has been groomed since birth to become the spokes-model for the most successful cosmetics company in America. She will be the fifth girl in her family to inherit this position, and is ready. Well, almost ready. Somehow, she has gained fifty pounds in the past three months – but it’s temporary! All she has to do is work hard, exercising and eating right, and she will get her weight back to normal. Why can’t her parents, the press, and her classmates accept this by leaving her alone? ROYAL ROSE is a story about making the best of the cards that life has dealt. Even if it means drawing a few from the deck.
I believe this book will appeal to fans of Sara Zarr, Simone Elkeles, and Dana Reinhardt, as well as those with thyroid conditions.
In 2002, I received an Honorable Mention in the Children’s Fiction area of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. I have graduated from two writing courses at the Institute of Children’s Literature. I am also a member of SCBWI, and write the “News Roundup” column for the SCBWI-IL newsletter, The Prairie Wind.
I would be happy to send the entire manuscript, which contains approximately 49,000 words. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.