Thursday, May 25, 2006
Q & A 21 Do queries really matter?
Hi Evil Editor. I noticed your tag line 'Why You Don't Get Published', and am wondering, Does perfecting query letters really have that much of an impact? It leads an agent to request your work... But so what? As Miss Snark often reminds us, it's the writing that counts.
It is the writing that counts. Now if there were only some way to convince you that the query letter is not music or sculpture or cake decoration, but writing.
So does concentrating on the query letter help anywhere near as much as, say, concentrating on the first few pages? Surely the first pages (included diligently with the letter) are much more of a deal breaker than queries.
No one's suggesting you write a great letter at the expense of your first pages. Everything you submit is an example of your writing ability. Why let any of it be swill? You should concentrate on everything.
I mean, what's the point of spending months tweaking and polishing a great query if you lose the editor before the fourth paragraph?
And what's the point of spending months tweaking and polishing the first pages if you lose the editor in the query letter? Furthermore, Months?! Evil Editor hasn't spent more than an hour tweaking any queries on this blog, and while they aren't all perfect, keep in mind that Evil Editor is working without having read any of the books. If you can put together a well-written book, you ought to be able to put together a well-written letter describing it. Conversely, you don't want the agent or editor thinking, She can't even put together a decent letter? Why should I expect that she can put together a good book?
Those who will benefit most from query critiques are those who write very well, but for some reason suck at writing queries. That's true. But those who boldly look beyond the query critique itself, to its lessons--organize your sentences and paragraphs logically, give specific information, focus on the important points--may find that those lessons apply to all of their writing.
Your query letter is your first impression. It's the clothes you wear to your job interview. And unless you're applying at Ringling Brothers, you're more likely to get the job wearing a business suit than you are wearing a clown outfit.