Total Pageviews

Monday, November 17, 2014

Query Letters: Do's and Don'ts




 
     While clearing out old papers, I ran across a few items I collected many years ago. For a time, I helped a literary agent sort through copious submissions. I evaluated submissions, passed only the best on to the agent, and returned the hopeless ones with an explanation and rejection. Sometimes I did not have to read past a few lines in the query letter to know the book would have no value. Here are a couple of direct excerpts from letters I found in that old pile, typos and other errors included:
     "I've created an interesting fictional story, titled [title deleted]. About a woman who must be true to herself and to everyone she loves …. If you are interested in my manuscript, do not hesitated in replying back to me."
     "With the most respectful manner in which you deserve I address myself to you, at the same time I most cordially salute you for your excellent and expidiant labor …. Without other undue motive present I remain most attentivelly appreciative to you for attention that it deserves."
     A query letter represents the author and the manuscript, so query letters must be perfect. If you want an agent or acquisitions editor to read your query, be sure it is a good reflection on you and your book.
     I attended a session called a Gong Pitch Fest at the 2014 Florida Writers Conference. During the gong fest, writers stood before a panel of seven or eight agents and publishers and pitched their books. If anything struck a panelist as a negative, the panelist struck a gong. After three gong strikes, the presenter had to stop. At the end of each pitch, panelists reviewed the good and the bad about the pitch. The event entertained and informed a large roomful of writers, and I learned a thing or two myself.
     Few of us get to pitch our books in person, so our query letter has to be our pitch. The mistake that brought the most gongs was what the panelists called "going into synopsis land." Although the query letter must give the gist or the hook of the story, it should not give the entire story.
The next thing that drew the most gongs was a pitch that failed to give the word count and genre of the manuscript. Some presenters even forgot to give the title of their book.  
     Like a pitch in person, a query letter must be short, tight, and to the point, yet entire books have been written on how to write a good query letter. If you're not sure about your query letter, read about query letters in any of the sources available in books and online, before you craft your query letter.         
     Once you have crafted the best query possible, have someone professionally edit the letter, to ensure that every comma, capitalization, word choice, and spelling is correct.
     If you have questions about your query letter, or if you want someone to edit it, contact me at Bobbie@zebraeditor.com.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Today's Conundrum



One of my wonderful clients just sent me a copy of her memoir, Wife of the Deceased. Last month, a client gave me two of her books that had recently been released by well-known publishers. I get all jittery and excited whenever one of my clients gets a book published and then sends me a copy. I take personal pride in my clients' accomplishments. I sometimes look over the shelves of books in my house that feature books I edited that have been published, and it gives me a warm feeling to know that I have helped so many people get their books out to the public.
 
I also know that my clients don't get books for free. The copies they give me cost them money, so they represent a true gift, in every sense of the word.
 
A while back, though, one of my clients went through the editing process with me, and he went on to self-publish his book with a print-on-demand company notorious for charging too much for its books. The client sent me a link, hoping I would purchase a copy. I had already read the book several times during the editing process, though, and did not feel the need to pay what I considered an inflated price for a copy. When I did not buy the book, the client, who surely will never hire me again, wrote me a nasty e-mail, complaining that after he paid me to edit his book, I wouldn't honor him by buying his book.
 
He had a point, even if the note was harsh. On the other hand, I stand by my decision; I will not pay for a client's book that I have already read, sometimes several times.
 
Maybe I should buy all my clients' books as a way of supporting them financially. If I did, though, my expenses would rise and my house would be even more overflowing with books than it already is. I have edited hundreds upon hundreds of books that have been published over the past twenty-three years.
 
Instead of buying my clients' books, though, I prefer to feel the warmth spread in my heart when a client goes to the trouble and expense to give me a copy of a book I edited. I also gladly promote my clients' books in this newsletter and sometimes on Facebook, as well.
 
I see both sides of the issue clearly, though, which leaves me in a conundrum. Should I buy a copy of every book I edit? Should I wait and allow the clients who wish to send me a copy do so? What do you think?