Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Query Letter

If I want to find a literary agent, I need a connection of some sort. Sadly, I'm connectionless. It's how I've run my life. So the only option left is a perfectly executed query letter.

If I want to find an agent to help me find a publisher for my book, I need a connection of some sort. I need to know an insider. When I think about the connections I might have, I know my son's future stepfather is a local political mucketty muck who has all sorts of connections. But given he has little to do with publishing and given the nature of the lynchpin to the relationship, it's a dead end for sure. So I have nothing. No connections, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, especially me when I consider the aversion I have to making “the connect”, a cornerstone to how I've run my life.

So the only option left is a perfectly executed query letter.

It isn't much of an option quite honestly. The drop-off from a connection to the query letter in terms of effectiveness is akin to that of a truck mounted snow plow versus a Kmart plastic shovel to clear a thirty yard driveway buried in a foot of wet snow, something I know all too much about. But it is an option nonetheless, and to the delusionally optimistic, of which I'm infinitely qualified to be, it beats a poke in the eye.

The query letter needs to warm the reader with the crackle of a dry pine log fire. The truth is, a submitted query letter from an unpublished writer, which I'm highly qualified to represent, eventually meanders itself onto the "Slush" pile—an endearing term used in publishing circles to describe the tomb of the unknown writer, of which I'm a member. Now this tomb, this slush pile, usually sits there on the dark corner of an old discarded desk, piled precariously ceiling bound, mouse gnawed and soiled, waiting to be touched. And occasionally, when the power lines are down, the cell towers are failing and blackberries are fruitless (a perfect storm in the confines of a literary agent's office), an underpaid assistant to an associate agent in training just might sift through the slush, looking for one diamonique in the rough.

That my friends is what I call "writer's opportunity", and it is exactly when one's query letter must be dry pine worthy.

This odd chance to break through goes as quickly as it arrives. So it is imperative the query letter?a one page, three paragraph gem that must string thoughts together like priceless pearls on a strand?be ready. The hook, the pitch, the close. That's all you get. Furthermore, no query letter worth its slush melting salt has a killer first sentence that does not give cause to read the second sentence, and the second the third and so on and so on, eventually leading to the big finale.

So in effect, you have an opening sentence and a closing sentence sitting there like bookends to one very important, extremely short infomercial in between. But it's that first one, that first set of ten or so words that will give you half a chance to land a communiqué of inquiry.

It's all about the "hook".

Ah, the "hook"—enough to scatter the brash and tether the timid. But to the delusionally optimistic, it's “game on”. One sentence! Do or die! Bring it on!

That's as far as I've ever gotten in the past. You see, my problem is that executing "game on" is a far cry from just yapping about it, and when it comes to the yap, I'm all that. What kind of hook can I possibly concoct for my little collection of oddball blog posts called, Cranelegs Pond the Blook? This folks is my challenge. One I must get past.

So here goes.

I'm leaning towards the two sentence parlay. Something short and terse, followed up by something witty and catchy. How about: "A blook" you might ask? Well what else would you call a book from a blog, "a boog"? Clever but no hook. Why should someone read the next sentence? See the issue here?

Let's see. I know: "If it's good news, it must be someone else's" has been the hallmark of my mundane life, making Cranelegs Pond the Blook?a collection of odd, humorous observations?endearing to the many who share and feel my pain. Sounds good! The opening is Woody Allenish, but I'm not sure it crackles. There is a lot going on in that sentence.

There is always brevity. Something like: "If it's good news, it must be someone else's" has been my life's credo. This collection of odd observations and stories is the result.

Oh well, this has been a nice little exercise. I'm going to work on this a bit. In the meantime, if any of you have suggestions, I'm all ears. I've got nothin' but time and a freezer full of Snickers Bars.

About the Writer

cranelegs is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on The Query Letter

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By alan handwerger on February 15, 2010 at 03:17 pm

I feel much less alone having read that. No better, but less alone. Thanks.

p.s. I have a freezer full of cod at the moment.

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By Pelagia88 on June 24, 2014 at 04:53 am

It is so good sukienka na lato

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