Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Q is for Queries: This is only three years of my life, Dear Agent, no worries

I've spent a lot of time putting together a query for SHARDS, and getting feedback on it. After all those hours, I think my query is pretty perfect -- maybe too perfect. I feel like the voice has been "fixed" out of it. But again, maybe I'm just being hypersensitive. You guys are definitely seeing my insecure side lately! :)

Here it is:

Dear Agent,

April Mitchell is seventeen years old when she helps her terminally ill father commit suicide. Six years later, she has the perfect life, a medical student with a handsome boyfriend, but she can't put the past behind her. She lied to her mother that her father died alone, in order to protect their life insurance payout. After her mother’s breakdown, she hasn’t stopped lying. She’d prefer that the world were a better place, and that she were a better person. Lying changes it all, at least for a little while – her father alive, her mother still loving her, and April content.

The truth comes out when a jealous acquaintance discovers April’s secret, which she exposes to the insurance company and the medical school. April is faced with potential charges of life insurance fraud and expulsion. Telling the truth about her father’s suicide might cost her dream of being a doctor, her boyfriend, and any possibility of ever reconciling with her mom. Falsehoods won’t work anymore, either. Can a girl who was strong enough to help her own father die find her way out of this mess? Maybe.

SHARDS OF GLASS is women’s fiction, complete at 83,000 words.

I have been previously published in the literary magazines Cicada and Windhover.

I look forward to your response.

Queries are hard. I've found some resources that definitely make them easier, though. This is the process I went through with SHARDS:
  • Read Query Shark to learn from others' mistakes. I loved Miss Snark too, in her day, so her archives are worth checking out.
  • Critiquing other's queries, as well as having your own critiqued, is so helpful. I love Agent Query Connect; it's very informal, so you can have a real dialogue about what's happening in your query letter and pick up on its strengths and weaknesses.  Join the Query Critique Corner, read and critique, critique, critique.
  • Meanwhile, read and critique away as well at the Public Query Slushpile. Once I was satisfied with my query from working on it with the Query Critique Corner, I posted it here and also got great feedback.
My current insecurities have nothing to do with a lack of terrific resources and guidance. I'm just tweaking out lately. :) But I highly recommend all these sites.

One thing I wish I'd done before I finished SHARDS was to start working on the query letter, but I think writing an elevator pitch accomplishes the same thing as an early start on the query letter -- forcing you to focus on the core of your story (check out my easy elevator pitch tutorial here). It's easy to get distracted by our subplots and amazing secondary characters, but those generally have to be cut in the query letter - which is part of what makes writing one so torturous!

Now I need to get back to work on that non-fiction query that's in work, which is a whole 'nother story (And perhaps even worse than the fiction query).

No. 1 thing I love about poetry and short fiction: sending the work out on its own merits, with just a cover letter. Easy peasy!


Shelley Sly said...

Best of luck getting that non-fiction query letter together. Thanks for the links to the helpful resources -- I'll have to check out that Agent Query Connect one.

Guinevere said...

Shelley I hope I see you on there! I find AQ Connect so helpful (and very friendly!)

Tracy said...

I feel you on the query insecurity. One minute, I've convinced myself I've got it near perfect ... and the next I start doubting.

Good luck with both, the one you have and the non-fiction one you've yet to do!

Jen said...

Good Luck with your Queries, I'm not at the part yet so I can't help you, but I can wish you the best of luck!!!

Cynthia Reese said...

Wow. Just wow. This sounds like such a cool story. It's one I'd want to read. Keep us posted!

Stephanie Thornton said...

That is a great query!

I used almost all those same resources when writing my query. They were so helpful. Good luck querying!

Old Kitty said...


What a very polished query! So impressive!

And thanks for the links to these great resources!

I have everything crossed for you for SHARDS! A lovely premise and a winning query!


Take care

Ellen Brickley said...

That's an excellent query, Guinevere, well done :)

I hope it brings what you want!

Laraine Eddington said...

I thinkk writing query letters shortens life expectancy. Stressful huh? Thanks for your comments on my YA novel yesteday. I appreciate your help.

Wanda said...

Wishing you much success!

E. Elle said...

Thank you for sharing those query links. We all need to help each other out. Good luck as you prepare to shoot your query out into the netherworld of publishing!