Friday, February 15, 2008

Kameron Hurley has some good advice on query letters.

Kameron has some excellent advice for those of you trying your hand at writing query letters.

The biggest problem that I see in query letters - and that I used to see when I was a publicist training new publicists how to write press releases and pitch letters - is that they are just too damned long and never get to the point. All the good stuff? Put it in the first paragraph. Period.

And in a query letter, I want to know the entire plot of your book by the time I finish reading that paragragh. Because if I don't, I probably won't finish reading the letter.

Remember that, essentially, a query letter is a pitch. You need to be able to get your entire plot across in about two to three sentences. You need a hook at the beginning, something that makes me want to finish reading the rest of the letter.

If you can't organize your thoughts about your book concisely enough to write a clear pitch letter, it's probably indicative of your writing style as a whole. That's a red flag to agents.

A well-respected agent I know who has been in the business for more than twenty years recently said to me "Colleen, remember this: the writer never gets any better than the writing you see in the pitch letter."


Anonymous said...

So what happens if a query letter pitch takes longer than a few sentences (say two paragraphs) but is still written concisely and intriguingly? Does it frustrate you so much that you jab at the DELETE key straight away?

Anonymous said...

Uh oh. You sound like the writers are wearing you down...

La Gringa said...

No, not at all. I am enjoying this. But bad writing is bad writing, whether it's in a letter, a beer ad or a book.

A query letter can be longer than a few sentences, but that quick summation, that HOOK in the first paragraph, can't be.

JeffV said...

I'm going to disagree just a tad, Colleen. I've known plenty of talented, really good writers, who can't write a query letter to save their lives. It's tough to write about yourself, sometimes. Sometimes, the better a fiction writer you are, the harder the cover letter is. Still, taking your advice should help even the worse cover letter writer do a passable job.


La Gringa said...

I still love you, Evil Monkey.

::: smoooooch! :::

Georgiana said...

I'm pretty sure my first paragraph was "Congratulations on your new job."

Oh noes, I am teh fail!!