Good news! My query is done! Cost: $50
After a slight delay, I finally hooked up with my editor/query godmother. She asked me to send her what I had. I wasn’t sure what that meant. So, I sent her a bunch of random notes and jibberish. I sent her a big pile of crap. This editor had already edited the first draft of my book, so she had some insight. This was the starting off point.
First Draft: She sent a great letter back, it was clear and concise, but it was written for a different story. I forgot to tell her that I did a lot of rewrites since the original draft. Although her query was great, the story had changed.
You must have a clear understanding of what your book is about. If you don’t, you cannot write an effective query.
First Edit: I attempted to rewrite the query using her outline with the updated story facts. I pinpointed every god forsaken “big” moment in the book. Explained why things happened. Where things went. It was long. So long. I turned my query into a synopsis. Good news is, I know how to write a synopsis.
The query should consist of 2-3 paragraphs outlining major plot points. Do not include backstory or explain character relationships in detail.
Second Draft: She sends back notes on the difference between a query and a synopsis.
A query is a brief explanation of your book. It does NOT disclose the ending. You want to hook the agent. Make him/her want to read your book.
A synopsis is an outline of your story, it can be 2-10 pages depending on the genre you write. (Fantasy requires more detailed explanation than romance.) It should disclose all major plot points, twists, and the ending. This is also an opportunity for agents to get a feel for your writing. Don’t take synopsis writing lightly!
Second Edit: I cut the synopsis down to just facts, no details, and made it a query again. A cliff notes version of the cliff notes version of the story. It’s the hook. The one line under the book at a bookstore. It’s the elevator pitch.
A query should answer the question every writer hates: What’s your book about?
Final Draft: She sent the letter back with a big “I love it!” She made no changes, it was just a matter of cleaning up typos etc… Which were many.
Please. Please. Edit your letter! If you have typos and grammar errors in a query, many agents will not even open your manuscript.
In the end, I probably wrote 90% of the letter myself, but I never would have gotten from point A to B without her help. I just needed a push or the comradery. The deadline. Volleying back and forth with her was worth every penny. It helped me put my thoughts in order and her knowledge of editing kept the letter clean and professional.
For most of us, writing is a solitary endeavor. Editing shouldn’t be.
Today I want to talk about writing conferences. Two things to know before you go: Are they worth the money? Will the information they provide help my writing?
Unfortunately, the only way to answer those questions is to go and find out for yourself. Everyone is different. This is just my opinion/review of the conference I attended.
San Francisco Writers’ Conference. Attended 2012, 2013, and 2014 – The first thing I will say is this. I initially loved this conference. The information I learned in 2012 and then in 2013 made me the writer I am today.
In 2012 I only took two a la carte classes. Cost: $99
I left that class on a mission. A mission to complete my book and to attend next year’s conference.
In 2013 this is what the conference was about. Cost: $650 (plus $50 for the speed dating with agents)
I left this conferences with such a huge boost to my ego and a very positive outlook on my writing career. The conference takes place over President’s Day weekend which was also Valentines’ weekend. My husband and I had loads of fun and the hotel is beautiful. The next day I crashed my car. I spun out in the rain and hit a light pole, it fell on me and totaled my car. It was a very scary and humbling moment in my life. I felt like the universe was trying to tell me something. It turns out, I’m just a really bad driver.
In 2014 this is what the conference was about. Cost: $680
I left this conference conflicted. I learned nothing new. Agents seemed to be turned on their head when it came to self-publishing. With the success of 50 Shades of Grey, indie authors were on the rise. During 2013-2014 indie authors like Colleen Hoover and Abbi Glines were signed to Atria Books (a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster the largest publishing house in America).
The only place you will find someone snubbing their nose at a successful self-published author today – is a room full of literary agents. Self-publishing makes their existence obsolete.
For the sake of this blog – I looked up the latest SF Writer’s Conference agenda. I didn’t find one class on actual writing. The majority of classes are focused on marketing, promotions, how to self-publishing, how to make money. Lots of classes on money, it’s all about the money. It’s almost embarrassing to read the agenda. They call it a writers conference, it should be called a “How to make money” conference. The registration is now $750! The agent list hasn’t changed, it’s still 75% the same agents as the last 4 years. The keynote speakers are “best-selling” authors that I’ve never heard of. I looked up one of them, Heather Graham, some of her books have less Amazon reviews than mine!
My final thought on the San Francisco “Writer’s” Conference – SKIP IT! You will learn more googling than at this conference. Unless you’re all about the money, then I suggest you keep your $750 and invest it in a good editor!
One very important tip I want to pass on: At the conference, they really encouraged us to follow the agents we wanted to query on social media, specifically Twitter. So, I did. It didn’t take long to realize that I didn’t really like the agents I was so desperate to work with. They complained – a lot. Some were even writing their own novels in the genre that I was writing. (Hello, conflict of interest) A few just weren’t good people. I realized that I didn’t want someone like her to represent me or my work. She would be in charge of my future, and she was a cunt. This was the agent that all the other agents were like, “She will love your book.” Long story, short. I never queried her or any of the 5 agents that asked for my book. Nobody can represent me better than myself.
Spoiler Alert – I self-published it.
I am on the cusp of doing something I swore I would never do again. I’m going to query.
What is a Query?
“It is the act of presenting your soul to a literary agent. The agent then slaughters your dreams in a ritual equivalent to death by a thousand cuts.”
Why for the love of God would I subject myself to this again and again and again?
Money. Recognition. Fame. Money.
I pitched this book to an agent at Chuck Sambuchino’s writing workshop last fall. The agent asked to see the first hundred pages. With the 100 pages I need to send a query. A query is your hook. A few short lines about your book that will make the agent drop everything and read.
Sounds easy, right? NO. Hell to the no.
To this agent’s credit, she had positive things to say. One being: Don’t hit that self-publish button so quickly. – BE PATIENT. She liked me, but then again maybe she liked everyone. Maybe she’s a liar. Or delusional. (see that right there? that’s self-sabotage)
Reasons why writing a query helps the writing process.
The query will define what your book is about. The genre, the plot, whether it has holes or is too complex. My problem is that I can never, ever, describe my book. You ask me for the plot of a book I’ve read and I can tell you in three sentences. You ask me what my book is about and I’m like, “Uh, um, um. A girl that likes a boy and then they go to the beach, and like, she kisses him, and then they go to a party. The end.”
Why not to query?
I am a self-published author. I have 3 books currently for sale on Amazon. I sell a few dozen books a month, sometimes more sometimes less. Thousands of pages are read a month on Kindle Unlimited. I’ve been invited to several book signings. I’ve been featured in a book subscription box, and this fall I am a featured author on a cruise. (like on a boat)
I could save myself the stress and aggravation of querying and self-publish this book. I could do alright. I could sell enough books to support my Starbucks addiction. Or, I could query, get an agent, sell my book, and pay off my car.
What if my query sucks?
If your query sucks the agent will not read your pages. They receive hundreds of requests a week, in order to weed out the ones without potential, they use the one-page query to determine if you are worth their very valuable time. It’s important not to suck.
I’ve decided to hire a professional to help write my query. I’m lucky because the editor I’m using actually edited the first draft of this manuscript. I sit here writing this blog when I’m supposed to be writing a sample query for her. (Procrastination is a writer’s BFF)
Doing this together.
I’ve decided to query several agents. If I’m going to query one I might as well query ten maybe even twenty. It’s like taking lashes after five rejections you’re numb to the pain.
I’ve decided to document my journey in a weekly blog post. So, stay tuned!
I’ve been an indie author for just over a year now. I’ve sent 4 books into the world and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Recently, people have asked me about my experiences in self-publishing so I thought I’d share some insight. I’m a workshop and conference junkie. I attend them in person and online. I want to pass some of that very expensive knowledge onto you.
#1 Rule in Self-Publishing: Hire an editor. For the love of God, hire a professional to edit your work. I cringe when I think about the work I queried back in the day. I sent out unedited, backstory riddled, middle-school level pieces of crap. It’s no wonder I didn’t get signed. Knowing what I know now – they probably didn’t even get past the query letter. There are programs like Grammarly that are useful as a tool before you send to the editor. It is NOT something I suggest you use AS your editor.
#2 Less is More: Tell your story in as few words as possible. The first draft of Thizz was 120,000 words. To put that in perspective – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was only 77,000 and we all know how big that book is. Once I weeded out the backstory (see #4) and fluff, everything came together. This is going to be very hard for you, but it really makes the story cleaner and easier to read.
An example: As I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house. I had two things on my mind – Paul Newman and a ride home.
You learn two things from this opening line. He was at the movies during the day and he’s walking home.
Bad example: I step out into the bright sunlight, its warmth coddling me like a hug from my mother. I squint against the cloudless sky giving my eyes time to adjust after being in the darkness of the movie house all afternoon. I glance down the somewhat empty street thinking about Paul Neman and the long lonely walk home.
Too many descriptions pull you from the story. The reader knows its daytime from the first line. Unless the cloudless sky is about to be filled with alien ships then it’s just fluff. A little fluff if okay, just use it sparingly.
Tip: Leave some things to the imagination. Some readers like a lot of description and some don’t. I personally skip over stuff like that. Especially, deep into a book. By page 210 I don’t need to know that she’s wearing her favorite pink sweatpants, the ones she bought at the mall the day after Christmas, as she curls up on her sofa to eat Cheetos and watch the Bachelor.
Note: An average romance or young adult novel is 50,000 -90,000 words. 90k is a big book. Thizz is just under 90k, about 327 pages at 9 x 6. (Yes, I cut 30,000 words from my first draft. It hurt. A lot.)
#3 Always move forward: Backstory is for the author not the reader. If something that happened in the past is relevant to the plot, then work it into the story. If you have to tell something in retrospect, keep it short and to the point. We don’t need details about clothing or the color of carpet unless it’s relevant to the story.
An example: I’ve been binge drinking coffee all day while planning our tenth wedding anniversary celebration. We’ve finally locked down the location so I can take a break. I rinse out my coffee mug and place it in the rack to dry, recalling the day my mother gave it to me. It was my eighteenth birthday, the same day I met the love of my life. He worked as a busboy at my favorite restaurant. Their tacos are the best in town, which makes it the perfect place to have the party.
Bad example: We decided to celebrate our tenth anniversary at the restaurant where we first met. I rinse out my coffee mug, the one with the funny saying that my mother gave me for my eighteenth birthday. We had a huge party at my favorite restaurant. They have the best tacos in town. Crunchy shells and lots of cheese. My best friend and I were coming out of the bathroom after she smeared red velvet cake with cream pink cream cheese frosting on my face. I was kind of mad because the icing dripped off my chin onto my brand new white and yellow sundress with a sweetheart neckline. That was the first time I saw my husband. He was wearing a busboy uniform covered in stains. His grungy demeanor didn’t take away from his signature smile.
The kind of cake, the dress, the cheese – all unneeded to get the point across.
#4 Never start a book (or chapter) with a dream: Or waking up. This is a HUGE pet peeve of literary agents and publishers. Dream sequences trick the reader and slow down the story. I actually had my book and a main chapter start with a dream and waking up. I removed the dream and added something like the example below. If you pull an example of an opening dream sequence and send it to me to prove that it works – It’s the exception, not the rule.
An example: I roll over and hit the snooze button on my alarm. The room spins slightly as last night’s dinner stirs in my stomach. This is the last day of my vacation I won’t waste it in bed, not alone. Time to get up and land me one of those hotties on the beach.
Bad example: I’m sitting on the beach enjoying a cold beer. A beautiful woman emerges from the water and makes her way towards me. Could it be the same woman flirting with me from across the bar last night? I squint to see her face. She’s just a few feet away and…wait a minute. What’s that sound? I’m ripped from the serenity of the beach by my alarm clock. I wake up alone in bed. The room spins slightly as I feel the steak and asparagus I had for dinner stir in my stomach. This is the last day of my vacation. Time to make my dreams a reality.
Everything goes back to less is more. When self-publishing you don’t have to adhere to as many “rules” but if you want your book to compete with traditionally published books, then you have to at least consider them.
Also – think about these things as you write your first draft, but don’t obsess over them. That’s what the second, third, and fourth draft is for!
If you like this article, let me know. Have a question? Comment below.
It’s been awhile since I wrote one of these things. Let’s see. What’s new in the world?
We have a new president. I bought a Christmas tree. I discovered that McCafe k-cups are not that bad. And I had a book release.
Not going there in regards to the new prez.
Here is my Christmas tree:
It looks crooked from this angle, cause it is crooked.
Here is my book release:
Buy it here: Amazon
Read more about here: Illusions of Ecstasy
Read it already? Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads!
There are so many things you can’t do when you’re married.
Do you care about my feelings? Do I care about his? Does he respect my feelings? Does he understand my feelings? Can he spell the word feelings?
6. Kids. Do you want them? Can you have them? Do you have too many? You can’t have them. He has too many.
Because of the things we can’t do, we reevaluate boring shit and classify it as fun. Some examples:
Marriage can eventually become something enjoyable. When feelings are no longer hurt, when leaving is no longer a threat, when kids finally grow the fuck up.
Until then, drink heavily my friends.
I can’t believe its only been one year. Just 12 months since my first book was released.
I feel so blessed and humbled by the support and love I’ve received from the book community. There are no words, and for a writer, that is pretty serious.
I’m kicking off my book birthday week by giving away my book for FREE.
That’s right. FREE.
FREE THIZZ FOR EVERYONE!
Get it here: http://amzn.to/2e75dSJ