Why is the Last Piece of Advice You Receive Always the Best?

In keeping with the whole “My vacation was really a vaction.  I swear!” theme of the blog this week, I present today’s post about query letters.

If you’ve been around a while you might remember a post or two (or half a dozen) about my issues with query letters.  I may have had minor problems in the past.  Okay, maybe they were major.  When I decided to get published I went out and read everything I could on query letters.  Yet, I still fell flat on my face.

During December I stumbled upon a blog post dealing with what NOT to do when querying an agent.  The post was one of those posts from a blogger who actually interviews agents.  The blogger had sent a survey out to a bunch of agents asking what mistakes they would like to see corrected.

I must admit that I was fairly pleased I hadn’t broken many rules.  Just those pesky “Query Letter” rules.  Then something caught my eye.  Four simple steps to a great query letter.  Yes!  Four steps I can follow.  All of those books had been for naught, but hey, I have found the way.

Here are the four things every single agent wanted included in a query letter:

1) Who my main character is? (Alexandria Houston, of course)

2) What happens to complicate Alexandria’s life? (Uh, let’s just claim being a foster kid is a big enough complication)

3) What exactly is it that Alexandria wants? (She wants a “Forever Home.”  Who doesn’t?)

4) Is there something standing in Alexandria’s way to achieving her dreams? (Uh, being an undercover agent at sixteen manipulated by a corrupt ATF agent and a horrible Peter Zeidrich trying to keep Alexandria from feeling like she’s part of the family enough for anyone?  I know it is two things, but they are both equally important to the story.)

Most agents were “I don’t want to know about you.  I want to know about the story.”  A few didn’t want to know the length or genre.  A few wanted a mini-bio about the author’s personal life.  A few wanted just writing bios.  (Yes, this is why one must research the agent they are querying.)

But every single agent wanted to know those four points!  Four really simple points!  Yes siree, I have found the answer I have thought.  (Dear writers about query letters, I went back to all of the books I had read, and not a one of you suggested this little, easy, idea.  Might make life easier on newbee writers.)

So, hello New Year, and simplified query letter.  You are no longer my enemy, but my friend.  Though there shall be many versions of you before anyone sees you, you and I shall co-exist.  There will no longer be stress in our relationship.  You and I are friends.  Give it two or three months (roughly how long I’ll be busy trying to revise SWEET SIXTEEN) and you’ll be ready to shine in the big world.

To read the blog post I got this idea from, visit JM Tohline’s blog: http://www.jmtohline.com/2010/12/biggest-mistakes-writers-make-when.html.  I did sort of borrow the questions.  They weren’t exactly worded the way I worded them.  But they are probably close enough to an agent or two’s response that I need to acknowledge the blog.



4 thoughts on “Why is the Last Piece of Advice You Receive Always the Best?

  1. Thanks for the tips on query letter. This is one part of the whole writing process that stumps me. There is always conflicting opinions on what you should place in your query. I will note these little pointers, though, for the future. And…I’m going to link your blog post on my stie pronto!

    • I know about the conflicting opinions. This was the first time I went “Dang, that’s what I need to focus on.” I started a new query letter based off these bullet points. Hopefully, the query letter will no longer stump both of us.

      Thanks for linking this to your site!

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