Saturday, April 6, 2013

Your Query: Selling Yourself

Querying is about knowing how to sell yourself. Pure and simple. It's advertising, marketing, it's know how to be your own PR Firm, your own biggest fan. But of course, just like the best advertising, you don't want to tell people that you're the best and that they'd be idiots not to take you on or buy what you're selling, you want them to read your query and just KNOW.

Problem is, most writers are...well, writers. Not marketers. Not PR executives. Not advertisers. Most writers read, a heck of a lot, and spend most of their time with their noses in books, and the rest of their time trying to either recreate their favorite works of literature, or to make up their own. Most writers didn't go to Business school. But that's almost what you need in order to succeed as an author.

Your query is your brand. It's the only contact that an agent has with you. It has to jump up and scream your name and run circles around the room (NOT literally) and make the agent say "YES!" "THIS!" "I HAVE TO READ MORE!" and in my mind there are two ways to do this:

1. Have a kick-ass query
2. Have an incredible first chapter (that you cut and paste into the body of the email, if the agent's submission guidelines request it...)

The problem is, if your query is really THAT BAD...the agent might not even make it to the bottom of the page to read the pages that you pasted in.

So what do you do? How do you sell yourself in the hottest, sexiest, most irresistable way?
Well, for one, you can check out Nathan Bransford's Query Letter Mad Lib - I found that very useful when I wrote my first query.

Two, you can read the queries on the Queryshark website and see where they went wrong and pay special attention to the "ones that worked" or "the ones that got it right eventually"

And three, (and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL!) you can send your query to the QUERYWHORE and she can help you with it.

Why am I doing this? Because it's fun. Because I care. Because I want to help you. Because I was there once, alone, forlorn, with nobody buying what I was selling...and then I became the's a long sad sobstory which I'll tell you some other day, but face it people, they don't call it query hell for nothing. And I'm offering you a one way ticket to paradise...(or at least a sweet little pink umbrella in your steaming hot cocktail glass!)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


1. Smart is sexy. Be yourself. Seriously. When all the clothes come off, an agent needs to know what it will actually be like to work with you, so push-up bras and body-shapers? Keep 'em out of queries. Being authentic and genuine is super-attractive. Don't try to make yourself out to be more than you are, but don't be modest either. If you are funny, that should come across in your query, if you are genuine, you should make an agent feel that too. Don't be something you're not. You are trying to cultivate a life-long relationship here.

2. Good communication is the key to intimacy. Be honest. Don't tell an agent everything there is to know about you in your query, but don't lie about anything either. Neither of you will enjoy the ride if you do. If you self-published, that's something an agent needs to know. If you were previously represented, an agent should know that too. Past history counts in a big way and not just when it comes to STDs. Being honest is a huge turn-on and it might just help you both get to the place you place you want to be. Together.

3. Agents like quickies. Keep it short and sweet. If you can't explain your book in a sentence, it probably needs more work. I learned this the hard way. If you can't confine yourself to a sentence, a 3-sentence paragraph is more than enough. You can take your query to a second paragraph max, but any more than that (not including the bio) and you risk losing their attention. Short skirts are super sexy. So are short queries.

4. Up-close and personal. Don't send a form letter. Let the agent know that not only have you picked them for a very specific reason (they represent your genre, they represent similar books - AND you've read those books), but always make sure to get their name right, and spell it right.

5. Wear deodorant. Keep it professional. It's cool to mention that you know an agent's likes and dislikes (when it comes to book genres) it's not so cool to list every single thing they have ever tweeted about including ice-cream flavors, their favorite restaurants, and the time they send their first tweet every morning. That's creepy and stalkerish. Keep your distance. Mention one thing that shows you care, but not more than that. Sexy="I like the Yankees too!" Not sexy="I also had macaroni and cheese for dinner last night - we are soulmates!"

6. Lose your religion. Faith can be super-sexy if it's a part of your story or if you're writing for a certain audience, and you clearly state that in your query. Religion is not sexy when you try to impost it on others. So, even if you sign every email you send with "Darwin is God" - find a way to delete that signature when sending a query to an agent.

7. Personal ads. Bios are sexy if they don't read like personal ads. If you have been published - great! Mention it. But not if it was in your second grade newspaper. And if you have no previous publication credits, keep it simple. Telling an agent some fun facts about what make you you and what makes you interesting is way cooler than making up stuff you never wrote or mentioning embarrassing contests you won (yes, even if you won first place in the "I have a crush on my principal" Haiku competition, it might have been very impressive at the time's not anymore.)

8. Agents don't do phone-sex. Phones can be really sexy if an agent calls you. Those kinds of phone calls get agents just as excited as they make you. That's about the only time that they are sexy. Ever.

9. Keep the lingerie off. Gimmicks might work great in the bedroom but leave all cute costumes and bondage gear where it belongs, in the bedroom, even if you've written the next "50 Shades." There is nothing sexier than plain black words on white paper in Times New Roman 12-point-font. Really. It's what agents' wet dreams are made of (well that and seven-figure pre-empts.)

10. Submit. No, not in that way, but following submission guidelines is extremely attractive. Breaking rules to get attention might work in a club or at a bar, but it's a huge turn-off for agents. It might even leave you out in the cold and deleted completely.

11. Keep your mouth shut. It's not that agents like their clients docile. But anything you say above and beyond the initial query contact can be a major mood killer. Don't respond. Don't follow up. Don't write a nasty response to a rejection. You will be respected and admired for it.

12. Foreplay takes time. Don't query an agent and then self-publish a month later. Query a set of 5 or 10 or 20 agents. Then wait. Do not prostitute a manuscript around to the entire publishing community over the course of a week, or even a month. Being patient is the way to land the agent of your hottest publishing dreams.