Except YOU, of course. YOU are in the know, unlike the rest of us nubs.
Anyway, let me take a stab at these serious questions. Did you catch that plural? Yeah. There are TWO.
Kristi wants to know: "Alas, I feel all my questions about ninja superheroes have been answered to my satisfaction. I do have a writing-related question though. I know, I'm so boring. In the next month or two (assuming I ever finish revisions), I plan to start the query process. Aside from consuming large amounts of chocolate and wine, which I fully intend to do, any advice for those in that stage of the game?"
Darling Kristi, you're not boring. You are AWESOMESAUCE. I know there are a lot of non-nubs who have weighed in on query advice, and you're probably better served listening to them, but here are my "words of wisdom." I put that in quotes because the wisdom part is debatable.
Carrie's Tips on Entering Queryland
- Your best weapon in Queryland is your book, although I don't recommend trying to bludgeon a prospective agent with it. (It's not received well. Trust me.) Your book should take up more space in your letter than your background. Yes, agents want to know you're not a blazing psycho, but ultimately you're selling your BOOK. Once you're to the phone call/email offer/carrier pigeon conversation stage, you can astound them with your happy personality.
- Show, don't tell. It's true of queries too. Anyone can call their book a "edge of your seat page turner." Instead, integrate one of those tension-laden, seat-edged moments into the query. Show us a cliff hanger and we'll get the picture.
- The rhetorical question is risky. Yes, you could start off by asking, "Have you ever wondered what would happen if supernatural ninjas took over the world?" But then, the agent could say, "Nope." End of query. Instead of asking if they're interested in your subject, make them interested!
- Don't stretch to position your book. Yes, if there's a great book out there that is a natural comparison, feel free to use it. My query compared my book to one of Super Agent Kate's other clients, so it worked well for me. But don't stretch for a comparison (in which case the agent may think you're delusional), claim you've written a best seller (in which case the agent will KNOW you're delusional), or label your book as a "mystery-fantasy-romance-paranormal-biography" (in which case the agent will be forced to put down your query and go look for some aspirin). You're the writer. Write. Let the agent and editor figure out how to position you.
- Voice is good, as it relates to your book. My books are silly, so the paragraphs describing my book were as snarfalicious as I could make them. (I followed Rule 2! Go me!) But the introductory and closing paragraphs were professional. Writing comedy does not excuse starting your query with "Yo, homey." (Nor does writing romance excuse "My darling." I could do this all day.) You may be lucky enough to have a more personal relationship with your agent once you sign, but keep it appropriate until then.
- Be prepared to query widely. You may be one of the lucky few who don't need to deal with loads of rejection (in which case, most of us preemptively hate you). If not, I suggest you read these words of wisdom from Neil Gaiman. "Reject THIS" indeed!
- In the same vein, query carefully. There's nothing worse than realizing that you spelled the agent's name wrong/spelled YOUR name wrong/sent your excited email announcing your first full request back to the agent instead of your friends/requeried someone three times by mistake. A system is a helpful thing. I had a master query that I customized for each agent, a query database, and a rule never to enter the email address until everything was done and proofed. It saved me a lot of accidental emailage.
- Enlist a support system. Yes, it's good to have family and friends, but it's even more important to have other WRITERS. A journey through Queryland is a lesson in insanity, during which you obsessively check email every five seconds, and your heart races Every. Single. Time. The only people who will really understand this are people who have gone through it. THEY are the people you should cry to/complain to/celebrate with/et cetera. Do not do this with agents! You're still pretending to be sane at this point. They'll discover your true neurotic tendencies later.
So there you go. What essential query tips do you think I've missed?
This ended up a little long, so I think I'll save the other writey question for tomorrow! OoOoOoh!