At the end of last year I gave my completed manuscript to five beta readers and by the end of November all of their reports were in. I was mainly interested in the overall story, whether it was interesting and made sense. I worked on that manuscript for five years and needed to know if it was as good as I thought it was or, as in many aspects of my life, I was just living in a compelling fantasy land.
I am pleased to report that it got good reviews. Even the readers I didn’t think would like it because it isn’t their genre enjoyed it and I got some great feedback on some small inconsistencies and details. In other words, it went better than I could have ever imagined. That means on to the next step.
I have only one goal this year and that is to find an agent or publisher for my manuscript. Now that the lost month of December is behind me, I have been working on one thing, the query letter. I shudder to think of the hours put into one page of writing, though with any luck, it will be the most important page of writing I ever come up with.
I have my 2015 Guide to Literary Agents. I have my 2015 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and I had what I thought was valuable experience successfully querying magazines. Wrong. I just love learning how stupid I am, keeps things interesting.
So here’s some news, writing a query letter for your novel is REALLY, REALLY HARD. Breaking down your five hundred page masterpiece into one super-awesome-amazing page is not for the weak. You will write it, you will research it, you will rewrite it, toss it, write it again, rework it, edit it, throw it out, write it a few more times. You will think you’re on the right track and then come back to it again and see how much it sucks. Your experience querying magazines? (Insert maniacal laughter here) Keep trying, sucker.
Now, after two long weeks and about ten different incarnations, I think I finally have something approaching what I need. If anyone out there should choose to take on this truly idiotic undertaking, here are some resources I found helpful.
1. The articles in the 2015 Guide to Literary Agents. Some very useful examples in there.
2. The part on query letters in Karen S. Wiesner’s very useful book From First Draft to Finished Novel. This is pretty basic info, but gets you started.
3. The article on how to write a query letter at agentquery.com. I think this one is the most honest about how bloody difficult it is.
4. Query Shark. Follow the horrible brilliance of this woman and read the archives. All of them.
5. A husband (or other human type creature) who is not afraid to tell you something could be better.
I’m going to sit on this bad boy for another week and then I’m submitting it to Writer’s Digest Second Draft Service for query letters. I spent five years on my book, the least I can do is spend forty bucks getting an objective, professional opinion on the letter that will sell that book.
Oh, and that list I have, of publishers and agents I want to submit to in my first round? Yeah, most of them don’t even want a query letter, or they want a query letter and a bunch of other stuff. I’m just getting warmed up over here.