Tag Archives: query letter tips

The Most Important Thing I Learned as an Author

Very early in my writing career, I attended a large conference on the West Coast. One of the panels lined up representatives from 5 publishers, some of the largest houses in the world beside some of the most highly regarded smaller houses.
One question came up from the audience about pitches. The attendee said, “I’ve heard I’m supposed to put sales information and comparisons in my pitch. But what exactly are you looking for and where can I find that information?”
The first response from a pubishing executive at a large house was, “I don’t know but perhaps someone else can answer this.”
The acquisitions editor from the smaller house said, “I don’t know either.”
And so on down the line.
Yes, every one of the five individuals responsible for finding the next gem in the slush pile said, “I don’t know.”
One tried to be helpful by adding, “But I know it when I see it.”
Well, you might have guessed that the mood in the room grew very ugly. The remainder of the 45-minute session was spent blasting the panel with outrage or asking ever-more sarcastic questions about how on earth authors were supposed to break in if even the folks at the top didn’t know what they were looking for in a pitch.
I was as angry as the rest. WTF, anyway?
Soon after that conference, I calmed down. I realized the most important lesson in my career:
You must know the market before you approach publishers and agents. You must hold their hands and guide them through the process of understanding why your book is a good financial risk for them to take.
You are the best advocate for your own work. Own it, and own your skill.

Display Natural Talant in Your Query Letter: 3 Tips

Sometimes people have a knack for writing their own query letter. Often they don’t.
It’s not because they can’t write well; it’s because the query is a sales tool and few authors, fiction or nonfiction, are trained in sales techniques.
Queries have a second obstacle built in: until an author is published, they often don’t know what the publishing industry expects them to include in the query or the book proposal. They don’t know the buzzwords, they aren’t sure how to position their work in the market, they don’t know what trends are current and what is fading rapidly away. The mistargeting of only one of these items is enough to make an agent or publisher stop reading and move on to the next query.
Practice is fine. Publishing industry savvy is much, much better.
Display natural talant by:
–Reading industry publications: Publisher’s Weekly, Writer’s Digest, etc.
–Read industry blogs: Huffington Post has several, and up-and-coming authors often blog about their experiences.
–Subscribe to industry newsletters. Publisher’s Weekly has a free e-newsletter, as does Writer’s Digest. There are tons of free e-newsletters out there. I sift through a few dozen every week.