There is lots of information out there to help you write query letters. Even with all that advice, you may have a horrible query letter and not know it. So then, you need to go to other sites for help with your actual query.
Here are a few sites I have found.
Mother. Write. (Repeat.) is the blog of an aspiring writer. She has been doing a contest called The Agent’s Inbox. A limited number of people can submit a query and the “first page” of their work. Anybody can comment on your query and she has a literary agent who reviews them too. If the agent likes any of the queries, she may ask those people to send in their manuscript. The agents that she has hosted have all been well known agents and it is a great opportunity to get some feedback.
Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire (Gotta love that name) This blogger is an agented writer and writes about
writing and other things. (Lots of Ws in that last sentence.) She has offered to do critiques of queries. Although it appears she has just started doing this (I actually found her through the above blogger), I like how she is doing the critiques. She offers comments almost line by line and then summarizes what she thinks.
I have done the first one, and I’m in line to do the second one.
Query Shark is by a well-known literary agent. You submit your query and she goes through and offers comments. I would assume it takes a long time to get your query critiqued because this is a popular site. But you can learn a lot by going through the old ones as she’s been doing this for years. There are a lot of rules to follow and you are supposed to read through all her old posts before submitting. I won’t bother submitting to this one, I’m sure it would be a long wait.
Query Tracker is a site that has a lot of stuff on agents and publishers and more. They have a forum where you can submit your query. I haven’t looked into this one yet, but it appears that anyone can post feedback.
I’m sure there are a lot more out there, but these are some of the better ones I’ve found. You probably need a tough skin because you may not like what you hear. But the way I see it, any comments are helpful.
I just finished with my final edits of Frosty and am now ready to send off my query. The manuscript has been greatly improved over the last month and I hope it will attract some attention.
I’ve decided to do something considered taboo. I am going to re-query a few agents. This is generally considered a big no-no. They don’t like seeing the same material again. I guess there are people who resend queries over and over after being rejected. Sometimes from different e-mail addresses, as if they couldn’t figure that out.
I am going to re-query for a few different reasons.
1. My original query was terrible. I queried too soon and even though I researched how to write queries, I got it wrong. (There is a lot to learn) I wrote it more as something you’d read on the back of the book. It didn’t really have many details of the actual story, which the agent needs to see. Most agents want to be hooked by the query to read more, so they don’t necessarily need the ending, but they need a good understanding of the story.
2. My manuscript was not ready. Again, at the time I began querying, I didn’t realize how bad it was. But since I first started re-editing, I’ve added about 10,000 words, helping with character development and tying up loose story ends, along with cleaning up the grammar and punctuation.
I’ve searched the internet for advice on re-querying and a few agents say it is okay, under certain circumstances. So I’m hoping that it doesn’t annoy the agents I re-query. If it comes back no, I won’t try again. And I’m not doing it with my whole list; just a few that I consider to be great agents. I also have one agent who requested my manuscript last summer but (obviously) rejected it. I’d really like to send her the improved story too.
The whole process is live-and-learn. So many people talk about jumping in too quickly and it’s hard because you’re excited about that next step. But now I’m ready to query again.
So we’ll see what happens.
There are organizations out there for just about anyone and anything. Currently I am a member of two professional organizations, National Association of Women in Construction and National Society of Professional Engineers. (Our local chapter being called FM Engineers) They are great organizations, but with the two kids and Cory’s odd work schedule, it’s hard to participate much in them.
But now I have just become a member of SCBWI. Every heard of it?
Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators. According to their website, they are a professional organization that “acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors… (many others listed)… and others involved with literature for young people.”
They have discussion boards, a bi-monthly magazine and other publications which offer information on writing and publishing and more. It looks like they offer grants and have several well known annual awards.
They also offer two big conferences every year. One in NY one in LA. It would be fun to go to one as they get big time writers/publishers/agents. Plus I’ve never been to NY, so it’d be a great reason to go!
I thought it would be a good idea to join, even though the local group (covering the Dakotas) isn’t very active. It looks like a great source of information and I look forward to finding out more about what they do.
I’d never heard of the term beta reader until just recently, even though I guess I had them. They are people who read a manuscript to offer comments before publishing. So anyone who has read any of my work and has offered comments and/or proofread, would be a beta reader.
Of the people who have read my work… Some just read. Some offer basic comments. Some have helped immensely with suggestions on how to make it better. Like I said in the previous post, it’s great to have those people who are willing to spend their time editing and proofing.
Anyways, that’s the stage I’m at with one of my stories. Soon I will be checking with some people to see if they’d be interested and available to read and offer comments. After going through the editing with Frosty, I have specific questions to ask. But any comments/suggestions are welcome.
Look to the menus at the top for the tab for Stranded. It’s young adult, but is a little less heavy than Frosty. A little cleaner too, so could easily go into a younger audience.
This is the status of everything else.
Frosty: I had been doing some more editing and am almost finished. In a few weeks, I will start querying again with a much improved manuscript and query letter.
I am also writing another story, a paranormal ya. I wasn’t trying to jump from contemporary to paranormal, but the idea came. And really I consider it light paranormal because the focus is not that the main character is a ghost, but the changes she goes through after becoming one.
So check out the tab for Stranded to see what it’s about. And if you’re really good an analyzing books and you’re interested in helping, let me know.
In September, I stopped querying new literary agents for Frosty. As you remember, it might take agents up to 2 months to respond, or not respond, and there are still some I haven’t heard back from.
I’d had a few people offer to help with either proofing/editing, so I thought I’d take advantage. I figured it would be a few quick changes, but it’s ended up being more.
It’s just like earlier in the summer. I thought I was ready for querying and I started the process. Most of the rejections were form rejections. But I got one back from a well established literary agency and it said they liked the story, but it was not “polished” enough.
About that time, I had some questions about publishing I went to an old friend of the
family, Ella, to see if she had any advice. Between her and her husband, they have published many books including non-fiction, poetry and other books. (Look up Alan and Ella Cvancara on Amazon.com if interested.) She offered to review my manuscript. I’d always thought I was a decent writer. English was probably one of my favorite classes and I always did well, but…
When I got Ella’s review back, it was a kick in the butt. Lots and lots of red. It wasn’t all grammatical errors and such, but included suggestions on content and structure too. I made a lot of changes. It was very helpful.
So just recently I had a few others edit my story and they gave additional suggestions. Now I have added about 10,000 words and I hope it’s much better. I’m waiting for my one last friend to do her proofreading. She had edited it first, before proofreading.
I had to look up the difference, so I now know. Editing is more for content/style/structure. Proofreading is more for grammar. (I’m not an English major, so I always just assumed editing and proofreading were the same thing).
After I make those last changes, I will be sending out queries again with a much better story.
One of the great things about this blog is that it’s brought these people to me. People who are interested and want to help. One is an old classmate from high school. Another is a friend from around here that I don’t get to see much because of kids and life and such. If I hadn’t started the blog (and put my postings on Facebook), they might never have known what I was doing and therefore I couldn’t have gotten their help. I’m lucky to have those people in my life.
So that’s where I’m at with Frosty.
Last weekend I attended my first writers conference at UND. It was actually the 32nd Annual Writing for Children and Young Adults Conference. Yes, 32nd annual, and I just heard about it for the first time, thanks to my mom who spotted it in the newspaper.
I have absolutely nothing to compare it to, but I thought it was a good conference considering the size of UND/Grand Forks. They had three (the 4th cancelled last minute) editors from publishers that do children’s books. I’d never heard of the two companies, Flux and Egmont, but the other was Random House, which everyone knows. And the one who didn’t show was from Viking, which I recognize too.
There was also a local author of middle grade fiction, Kurtis Scaletta, who now lives in Minneapolis area. He lived in Grand Forks and attended UND.
The speakers were dynamic and interesting. And I met some nice people too who I will probably run into again.
The best thing was that being a small conference, 25ish people, you have access to these editors and the writer. They sat at lunch and dinner with us and would answer questions you might have. That might not happen in New York at a conference with hundreds of people.
Mr. Scaletta also offered to review query letters and offer suggestions since he’s dealt with them and literary agents. He thought mine looked good. It has been much revised and changed since I first started querying, so hopefully this might grab someone’s attention.
I was disappointed that I’d missed the deadline to submit a manuscript (10 pages) for evaluation by an editor. That would have been helpful. I also wished they would have had a literary agent (which the big conferences do).
But I will definitely go back.
I also hope to go to more conferences. Sioux Falls had one last spring and hopefully will again. Yes, the big jump from Grand Forks to Sioux Falls. Maybe I’ll take on Denver or New York or LA after that!