Friday, March 8, 2013

Query Letter Advice: Let Someone Else Write It!

Lime tart to the right of the computer. That may or may not be my gmail...
 Okay, so I spend quite a bit of time at my local library, writing. I copyedited most of ABANDON at the library. I sneak in cherry limeades from Sonic, and baked potatoes, and mini sweet tarts. I wear headphones, I turn off the Internet, and I get so much done!
Erin actually works...

Well, when I have projects to work on. (Don't judge me! I'm between projects.)

For the past several weeks, I've been meeting with a friend of mine, Erin Summerill. She is one of the best photographers I know (she took my author photo!), and you should definitely like her Facebook page so you know about her contests! She's giving away some headshots later this month.


When she's not snapping photos, we meet at the library. She writes while I, uh, answer email and read on my Kindle, and sometimes tweet.

So we were there last week with the Pegster, and I was whining about how I didn't have anything to work on. Erin said, "I know what you can do! You can write my query letter."

I already knew a little bit about her book, but I told her to tell me about it. She starts talking, and I'm typing a few notes here and few details there. She's still talking. I stop typing. I was totally rude, actually, and I said, "I've got it. I don't need to know any more."


It's actually better in pictures. Here you go:
Erin tells me about her book.

"I just can't fit in ALL THE THINGS!"

The most exciting part...

"Stop," I say. "I got it. I can write it."


And that's the thing right there, my friends. The reason you can't write your query letter is because you know ALL THE THINGS.

Today's advice: Don't write your own query letter. Ask a good friend to do it for you. Tell them the basics (or what you think are the basics), and let them craft the letter.

I can pretty much guarantee that what you think are the basics won't all make it into the query. There just isn't room. Really the query is the setup of your novel -- think, "What does someone need to know to understand my main conflict?" -- and the inciting incident that leads to the main conflict. It's what you write in the first 30 - 50 pages of the book.

After that, all the query letter needs is the consequence. Think, "What will happen if my MC can't overcome the main conflict?"

We seriously don't need anything besides that.

So I wrote Erin's query and I sent it to her. Now, it's probably not perfect. The voice might be a bit off. Some details might not be quite right. She might not like the way I crafted a sentence. But at least now she has a starting point. A piece of writing that ONLY HAS THE BASICS of the book and not ALL THE THINGS she has in her head.

This method works because the query letter was written by someone who is free from all the things.

So there you go. Stumped on your query letter? Ask someone else to draft it for you! Then, of course, you'd edit it the same way you edit your manuscript. With love, and care, and possibly a few more sets of eyes on it.

What do you think? Have you ever thought to have someone else write your initial query letter? Do you think it might actually work? 

30 comments:

Christina Lee said...

Hi Elana! *waves*

This is sound advice. My CP and I try to help each other in this way after we've read each other's books. The other person can somehow see the big picture better than you can. The problem is with all those *details* that you try to cram in.

:-)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great idea. Why didn't you tell me that before I spent over 40 hours working on mine?

I've still been working on mine during the Pitch-fest. I'm happy to say I may have finally gotten it right or close to right. But I'll remember your advice the next time I struggle.

Matthew MacNish said...

This is actually really brilliant. Lisa and Laura did this for me on my first book. Now I'm hoping you can do it for me on my second. :)

JeffO said...

Yeah, I would love for someone else to write my query letter.

Suzanne R. Klein said...

This is great advice! Now, to find someone willing to do that...

Connie B. Dowell said...

Great idea! It's really hard to know what's important for a query when you have a whole book in your head. For my current WIP, I'm writing the query letter now, before I finish a draft. Of course, I'll have to edit extensively later.

Lacie Myers said...

I laughed when I saw the title of this post. Hooray for delegation! But seriously, this is brilliant advice. Now if I can just find some friends who know how to write query letters....

ilima said...

Elana--where were you when I needed my query written??? Haha. Lucky Erin.

Kathryn Purdie said...

Love those hands of Erin flying everywhere. That's ME when I talk about my books! :-)

Love this post. Seriously some great advice.

Kaylee Baldwin said...

I've done a version of this before and got my best query ever. I sent a way rough version of my query to one of my cps who ended up rewriting the entire thing and it was awesome. I had to tweak the voice and a few small things, but the structure of it was there. She was far enough away from the story to know what was important and what wasn't.

Also, your library is awesome.

Jessie Humphries said...

Best blog post ever! You girls and your PG library time! Sometimes I really wish I was cool enough to live in PG. but yes, I agree. I'd take u writing my query letter any day.

Lydia Kang said...

You look like you're both having too much fun in that library! Great advice, Elana, and good luck to Erin!

Christy said...

Love this idea Elana! Thanks for the fabulous advice.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love it! This is probably why it's so much easier to help others on their query letters over at Agent Query Connect :)

The Capillary said...

I love this post! Not just for the pictures either (they were totally awesome). I never thought about it before, but getting someone else to write the query letter sounds like a great idea. :3

Brenna Braaten said...

Hi!

I totally understand this. I just recently had to do this with a friend. She was working on a summary, and couldn't get it to work, so I did it for her. I know her book, but I could simplify it down.

I write at coffee shops. I'm glad I'm not the only one who writes somewhere other than home. :)

i'm erin. said...

Bah ha ha! That's pretty much how it happened. This is my favorite blog post ever. I was driving to Las Vegas yesterday. Sorry I just had a chance of writing! You are my favorite library patron ever! Def better than the bum!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I definitely think that's a great idea. So long as authors remember to then add in their vice. :)

Carrie Butler said...

This is the coolest post ever, and not just because I heart both of you. :)

Liesel K Hill said...

I think that's a great idea! I'll try it sometime. :D On that subject, way back 3 or 4 years ago, the first time I attended Roundup, you sent me your query letter powerpoint presentation and I still have it and refer to it often. I sent it to a friend of mind who's trying to sell her first book and she said it helped her immensely. Just wanted to let you know how awesome your awesomeness is. Thanks Elana! :D

Alice said...

Great idea! I'm going to try it. Love the pics!

Nicole said...

I actually did this for one of my friend's early query drafts - it helped her make it concise. Plus, I love her book so it was fun!

Leslie said...

Your photos crack me up! I do know how Erin loves the library and she's so lucky to have you as a library bud! I love your idea too. If I ever get to the point that I'm ready for a query letter, I definitely like the idea of asking a friend for help.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Yes! This is what I'm always saying. Why can't my CP's just write it for me? And maybe parts of my books, too. I don't think that's asking too much. LOL. :) But seriously, it definitely makes sense to have someone un-bogged-down with all the things to tell you what your book is about, what parts are actually exciting, because often the exciting parts are not what we think are the best parts.

Peggy Eddleman said...

This. Was. Awesome.

And I agree-- it's SO much easier to get to the bare bones of someone ELSE's book than it is your own.

A.E.Johnson said...

You guys are great actors. Much better than James Franco.

Jenn Soehnlin said...

Oh. My. Goodness.

LOVE this idea! I've rewritten my query so many times I've lost track of what I even want to portray about my story. I will have to try this! :)

Deirdre said...

Solid Gold! Thanks for the tip and hilarity.

Fida Islaih said...

I just might try this! Thank you! (-:

Nichole Giles said...

Great idea! Miss you all and wish I was able to meet you all at the library too. Maybe I'll have to try my local library by myself and see if I can write there. Maybe I'll get stuff done.

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