Monday, February 19, 2007

In Which I Misemploy Fishing Analogies

I just stumbled across your blog and slunk through your latest posts and comments and I like what you said about what takes priority in a query letter: your story idea.

It seems like a lot of writers fuss about getting that query letter perfect (credits, how they found the agent, etc. all in the perfect place), when it seems to me that if you get the hook right, then you're going to get a call. You still shoot for perfection on your query letter, but 90% of your time should be in getting that hook dead on.

What do you think?

So it seems we're getting to the point in the blog where I'm getting repeat questions, at least partially. As to why you should try to get everything right in the query - spell the agent's name correctly, don't mention you're a first-time author with five previous rejected novels, don't try to be cute, don't hand-write it over five pages - that's just basic common sense. It's a job interview. Authors like to emphasize that the agents work for them, which is true, but the agent still gets to pick whom they work for, so it is in that sense like a job interview, with some of the elements reversed. And like a job interview, you want to look your best.

That said, it is all about the hook. This isn't entirely true - some credentials will float you into the maybe pile with only the barest summary of your new work - but it's not so much about having a great hook as having a bad one. A bad hook will sink you. Yes, I know hooks don't sink unless someone bites; it's a bad analogy, but my point stands: If your idea sucks, you will get nowhere, and all the fine-tuning in the world won't help that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I spent a YEAR off and on just trying to get the two paragraphs--103 words--about the story just right. The rest of the letter? Most of that's pretty standard.