Wednesday, June 16

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 24 comments
I've rewritten my novel significantly enough that I've jettisoned all my marketing materials--the query letter and 2-page and 5-page synposis--from my first round of unsuccessful querying last year. I'm starting again from scratch and hope to make my new marketing materials as shiny as my rewritten manuscript.

Tell me, friends, which resources you've found most helpful in crafting your query and synopsis! Any specific tips you can share that you learned that hard way that aren't in most guides?
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  1. I just got Elana Johnson's From the Query to the Call. It looks good; don't know if it would address your needs but Elana seems to cover a lot.

  2. I read on some blog somewhere that there's 4 steps to queries:

    4 Sentence Query Synopsis
    Sentence 1 - Who the protagonist is and what they want
    Sentence 2 - What's standing in their way
    Sentence 3 - How they're going to get around the obstacle
    Sentence 4 - What complications arise from their course of action

    That helped me a bunch.

    Good luck! I'm in queryland myself and it's hell sometimes, well, most of the time.

  3. To be honest, the best thing that ever happened to my query letter was having Elana and Shannon Messenger critique it. They were amazing! :-)

  4. I found the QueryTracker forum to be really helpful. They critique with a sharp eye but aren't mean about it.

    good luck!

  5. query tracker

    Agent Query

    Charlotte Dillon's site helped too

  6. No tips.... bad at that.

    But I have an award for you:

  7. My critique group crits queries and synopses as well as manuscripts. It really helps to have someone who's read the ms crit the query. They can pinpoint what to cut and what's important.

    I had a query that generated very little interest. I revised it and have gotten a lot of requests for fulls and partials. It really does make a difference! Good luck with your new query! :)

  8. I suck rocks at queries. But, some good resources have been listed here. There's also queryshark .. love that site!

  9. Do you check out Query shark's blog? (

    I think that is a great place to start when forming queries. Good luck!

  10. Laurel, your situation sounds exactly like mine. Are you going to requery some of the same agents as before. I have one who was interested after she requested (and rejected) my full. For some, everything about the ms (including the voice and first chapter) will be new. Unfortunately I can't change the title.

    I also recommend Elana's book. I tossed my old queries and started from scratch using her book. From the feedback I've gotten on it (including an agent in a contest), it's much stronger now.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog today. It inspired a (serious) part two for tomorrow. :D

  11. is a fantastic sight to get feedback from non-snarky commenters as well. I've used it twice and found their comments worth the time.

    Also, once you get the query the way you want it, have someone who is not in the biz read it and ask them if it makes sense. You'll be surprised at what they ask you about and most of the time it needs to be in the query.

    Openquery also has a superb list of blogs on the side bar that address query and synopsis sights.

    As for my synopsis I take 3 things I think are important from each chapter and make cohesive sentences from them. Once I have that, I form cohesive paragraphs that form the plot line from beginning to end. I do not use flowery prose or adverbs. This is a cut and dried factual account of what happens in the book. Depending on the book I also don't use the internal conflict unless it's necessary. I generally only show the external. Hope this helps. Sorry it's so long.

  12. I'm not there yet, but I will be actively watching this post for some good resources. Good luck! And if you need a query beta reader, I'd be happy to lend my services.

  13. I haven't been in the query trench and don't have much to add to the brilliance that the other commenters have already said. But I just want to say good luck! :)

  14. I do love the word jettison, though I’m sorry you had to use it. I was going to suggest Elana blog as well. (

  15. Yeah, I used Elana's blog and bought her book. Very helpful. I also like Query Tracker

    Good luck!

  16. I've jettisoned quite a few query letters, Laurel. I like the version I have now, but it evolved after much revision and feedback. Good luck!

  17. I found the examples in AgentQuery very helpful to start me off. A book that looked a bit gimmicky turned out to have good advice: Give 'Em What They Want by Blythe Camenson and Marshall Cook.

  18. Querytracker is awesome and so was the Public Query Slushpile blog.

    Good luck! The trenches suck, but it sounds like you're ready for Round #2!

  19. Karen: As you read, I hope you post about what you think of this resource.

    Aubrie: I found a seminar worksheet online that has some of these ideas. It is a good starting point.

    Shannon: skilled critiques are good. Great idea.

    Lydia: I've seen these forums and wondered how it felt to be on the receiving end.

    Jennifer: I'll check these out. Thanks for the heads up!

  20. Swimmer: Awards! Shiny. :-) I shall drop by to check it out.

    Amy: In an ideal world I could do just that. However, my one crit group that gives the most helpful critiques has no marketing experience. The other group is mostly PB and MG writers who don't quite "get" YA, though some of them have been querying a lot and may help.

    I'm certain my lousy query from last year was partly to blame for so many rejections.

    Tess: And yet you did find an agent and publisher. That gives me great hope! Thanks!

    Jayne: I haven't, but I shall. Thanks for the link!

    Anne: Thanks for your great suggestions. I'll check out the site you mention. And non-industry opinions, that's a good idea. I think my synopsis rewrite may be easier to do than the query, since, as you say, it's a retelling in condensed form rather than positioning the story to sell it.

  21. JEM: you are a gem! (pun intended) I like the idea of a private rather than public forum for critiquing my query. You're on!

    Sandy: well wishes are always appreciated! :-)

    Southpaw: Another writer told me that if you're getting nothing but form rejections, the problem is likely your query (though in my case, the manuscript needed one last rewrite too). Elena's posts have been a good starting point. I need help with how to boil down a complex plot and decide which elements to emphasize.

    Janet: Thanks. I'll be checking them out.

    Roxy: I'd love to hear how you knew when you'd finally nailed it. Maybe you could post on that some time?

    Yat Yee: I used these authors' book _Your Novel Proposal_ to help me write my first set of marketing materials. I thought they were better on synopses than queries. I'll look for this other title you suggest.

    Stephanie: Thanks for the site suggestion. I definitely feel my rewritten book is 10x stronger that the previous draft. Here's hoping that confidence bolsters my marketing ability!

  22. Stina: sorry to take you out of order, but you had the most questions for me!

    Last time I'd made a spreadsheet and ranked agencies based on how good a fit I thought they'd be. I sent to a few from each category in my "test run". I still have quite a few I haven't yet queried, so I'll start there. A few I might requery, though I'd definitely change my title for them, since every agency has a logging system and would likely reject a resubmission (well, maybe not, but why waste the opportunity on something small like that?) I figure the title is almost always changed by the publisher anyway.

    It's awesome you have a foot in the door with an agent who wants to see a rewrite. Good luck with that!!

  23. I agree with everyone else! QueryTracker is a great resource. Good luck!

  24. I think Nathan Bransford has great query tips as well as Elana Johnson. One great tip I learned from her is after you get a sense of the plot points you want to include in your query, to write you query from the POV of your main character, so you can get a 'voice' across in your query. Then take the I's out and switch it back. Very helpful!