My query terrifies me. The 70,000 word novel that I've been lovingly writing and editing for two years could easily be destroyed by a 250 word query that I write over the course of a few weeks. It is the atomic bomb that could destroy my fantasy world and all the lives within.
Okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic. On a more uplifting note....while obsessively searching the internet for magical query solutions, I found the blog of Susan Dennard. After I read her blog post, The Parts of a Good Query Letter, and the article she directed me to at Agent Query, I was struck by a radical notion...writing a successful query is possible.
The basic formula is:
I can do that....I think.
Susan Dennard has a great opportunity on her website called Query Day. Once a month, Susan will critique ten queries. Two randomly chosen queries are also posted on her blog for extra feedback. To participate, you need to be one of the first ten people to submit a query after she calls for submissions. The window closed in about twenty minutes in June, so watch that blog! The next Query Day will be in July. So far, all Query Days have opened in the first week of the month...that's an observation, not a rule, so be prepared for Query Day to come any time.
Getting a critique from Susan is a big deal. She knows queries. Susan posted, "Out of the 12 agents I queried, 9 requested a full or partial manuscript." Whoa. That's insane.
So, it may actually be possible for a competent writer who does their research and their edits to write a good query. But the other side of the coin is...it's possible for a competent writer who does their research and their edits to write a good query...so I won't be the only one sending in good queries. There is an "X-factor" to good queries that's harder to achieve. It could be that your story matches market trends, agent preferences, or it's just plain great.
Susan's "X-factor" may have been all of the above, but she also added to her edge by great research. Check out her other article, How I Got My Agent (Part 2: The Prep). I have been Googling prospective agents for a while and it's a great idea, although at some point I feel like a stalker. If I know an agent's opinion on Hangover: Part II, I think I've gone too far (thank you Twitter).
Back to seriousness, I want to thank Susan Dennard for giving me hope with her non-threatening and to-the-point advice on writing a good query.
Here are more blogs you must follow if you're querying:
Query Shark - This blog scares me a little...I'm not sure if I have the courage to submit. She's like the Simon Cowell of query critique. But I've learned so much from reading it!
BookEnds, LLC - Jessica Faust, agent of BookEnds, LLC has a blog segment called "Workshop Wednesdays" where she critiques a query. It's pure gold.
Nathan Bransford - Agent turned author Nathan Bransford hosts Query Thursday on his blog.
You can submit your query those blogs for a chance at expert critique but for more critique faster, get your query critiqued by peers at AgentQuery Connect. Read and critique my critique at http://agentqueryconnect.com/index.php?/topic/3696-stormland-urban-fantasy/.