Quotes For Writers: Fearless Fiction Query Letters

Dearest Odyssians,

fearless soul fire quote via eyesofodysseus

I am finally getting to the final final final stages of my query letter. And the best part of having spent so long with the letter (no less than 40 versions over 40 days), and with the book itself (a year and a half), is I am actually feeling fearless about submitting to agents.

A special message of hope to any of you writers struggling in the morass of writing a query – The fear that you are feeling shall pass. I promise. Confidence in submission will come in time. Just keep grinding out new versions of the letter until its wording, etc… fits like a fine skin glove onto the soul of your work. You’ll recognize the perfect-match feeling immediately, I promise. So keep working, sentence for sentence, until you are truly satisfied. 

Did you know a GOOD query letter takes around 2 months to write?? I read that info on a great query letter writing website. I personally can attest to this. When I set out, I gave myself a measly 2 weeks to be done. When I started moving into one month territory and my letter was in shambles, I panicked. That panic led to the horrible feeling that I was failing at this writing thing all over again. But I stuck with it….  and now, nearing two months, I am starting to feel like I have this query dragon slayed.

Here’s More amazing news: Your query only needs to be between 250 and 350 words!! Yep. Hard to believe, but that is IT. Anything longer, and you run the risk of losing a prospective agent’s interest. So keep them short, and direct. This can be a struggle as you try to incorporate the unique voice of your novel. But efficiency shows an agent you know your novel well enough to discuss it simply, and that your novel follows the basic plot points needed to sell most books.

That being said, I myself am swimming in the “longer” end of the pool lanes because my book incorporates such a massive twist at the end, it’s almost as if two plots must be covered by the letter. The first plot readers will see is what I’m calling the surface story of the book. The second, hidden plot, you’ll see upon another reading after the reveal is dropped. Hopefully the book is good enough to give it another go!

Think “the usual suspects”, “fight club”, “the sixth sense”  in terms of how powerful the twist is that I’ve added to the tome. I hope it works to that effect. Intentions are not always achieved upon first tries. Edits should help, if so.

Ok everyone. Good night. And sleep well.

And keep working and pushing yourself into those darkest, scariest corners of your writing world. You will find that the monster under the bed (and in your head) has to be small to exist in small spaces. It’s no giant. It’s no bigger than you, and actually was never there at all, once you turn the flashlights on, and take a close look.

Hugs, and fearless writing to all,

O and OM.


14 thoughts on “Quotes For Writers: Fearless Fiction Query Letters

  1. Yeah!!! Very excited for you, O. Congrats on your progress, and for navigating the dark night of your query-letter-writing soul. In reading this, it strikes me that confidence is a good litmus test for completion, as long as it’s not the hubris assuming the first draft is perfect…

    Have you sent any out yet!?


  2. HI MM –
    No. we havent. :( But let us not frown for long… There is only a small bit of work left to do.
    Thanks for checking up on us, and giving us a nudge to submit. It is our goal, I swear it. Now I’m working on the personalized intros to the letters. Each agent I am submitting to, I have chosen specifically. And I want the letters they get in their mailboxes to reflect that. I am submitting to only a few agents. Each one would be a dream to work with :) Naturally. Fingers and claws on toes crossed. Odie’s been with us all the way.

    Youre right again – Confidence I think is perhaps the ONLY litmus test for these things. query Letters will never be perfect, nor will books. But somewhere along the way, after weeks of working towards the goal, there is light at the end of the lonely tunnel – a torch of sorts that breaks through the darkness, and leads the way to the promised land outside.

    Have you found your torch? The one that burns away the cobwebs and the self-doubt?
    Perhaps you never had the levels of fear that I have had. Your writing has such a bold voice, I believe this to be true. How are your opening chapter rewrites going on Goggles?

    O and OM

    • Hello O and Om–

      I haven’t made much progress the past two weekends, as I have been busy in the throes of this poetry bug. I attended my first open mic event, and that threw me into a tizzy from which I’ve only just recovered. The tizzy began well in advance, I assure you, and I was very happy to have overcome my tizziness to share some of my writing in a new way.

      But I’ve been ruminating over one particular section of the Goggles work that I think is one of the weaker remaining segments, and have come up with an idea for that which I’ve begun putting onto paper just this evening. These nudges back and forth are so very good… :)

      So, I think the portions of my work that needed the most help will have received it once this is complete, and I will shift into moderate fine-tuning of later sections, and then start the query/agent researching progress you have so wonderfully educated me about.

      Hugs returned,

      • hi mm.
        ok. great. this is excellent news. the tizzy and dizzy is the proof that you are achieving new levels as a writer. isn’t it great that we can actually feel ‘progress’ inside of us. like exercise, growth can be a painful and uncomfortable process for the mind. one thing i wish humans were better at – adapting to change. but it is our number one fear creator. facing it is the only way to beat it. we are proud to hear that you are presenting your work in public. it only gets easier from here on out. bravo. Will you be doing more readings? how was the reaction?
        as for goggles,
        can you say what you think is missing? straight plot points that needs to be beefed up, or connection/transition issues? both can be difficult to resolve without destroying the surrounding layers of the work. work slowly, but stick to it, and even if it takes a week of straight dedication it will get fixed. again, change is hard because as authors we remember all versions of a passage that came before. the good news is, readers dont, and wont.
        i understand the challenge you have with goggles. glad the nudges are working. i agree.
        let me know if you need any further advice/suggestions on what might fix the segment.
        in all books there are ‘less favored’ chapters. so dont get your hand caught in a trap that can be reasonably rectified later. an editor can also help decide what should stay and what should go. they are imperative.
        as for my book, the craziest thing is happening. the closer i get the submitting, the more life is rushing in to crush my state of mind and progress. between dental issues (lost retainers, chipped teeth, bad fillings all in a week) and personal ‘events’, i’m struggling to focus on the task at hand – submit the damn letter to great agents. even odie has become the bastard son. he wont give me a moments peace at the keys. but i’m telling myself the BS of the universal set backs that come to get winners near the finish line wont win this time. I will overcome. and i will get to my goal, no matter what cosmic backlash comes to defeat my resolve. the knuckle draggers of the bad juju energy that hate progress can kiss my ***. and watch me pass them up.
        o and om.

      • HI MM.

        Really didn’t mean for my comments to come off as “instructional” as they might read (not that you complained). It’s the gemini in me. I tend to blast off on should and shouldnt’s to the point it looks like i might not be listening.
        truth is, i am listening. and enjoying what you have to say about your poems, books, sharing, and writing adventures. and i’m fully supportive.
        and i know that youve got this process 100% in the bag. #goodfaith
        happy writing.
        * but if/when you need advice on the agent query thing, let me know, and I’ll be happy to share my ideas.
        o and om

      • Hello O!

        Please don’t interpret my delayed response as any indifference to your enthusiasm and your reply. Truth is, your Gemini nudges have been very helpful to me, and I didn’t have the least adverse reaction to your note.

        The part I was struggling with was a scene that was too little of the ole’ “show, don’t tell” and was too direct in its narrative. It’s a scene I felt was important, but that I knew would come off almost lame, for lack of a better term. So, I’ve got a plan to navigate the character through the emotional content using a little more oblique (and hopefully more engaging for the reader) approach. I just need to write it now…

        I hope you are giving the knuckle draggers hell over there. And I will definitely probably take you up on your offer… :)

        I know you’re listening and I greatly appreciate it…

        Your amigo,

      • hi mm –
        no. it was nothing about delayed responses. was genuinely surprised by the authoritative tone my comments took on when i read them later – a tone that was never intended. i certainly am trying to figure this whole book thing out just as much as the next guy.
        Ok. i see what you’re doing with Goggles. kind of. oblique approach? Were you too being to direct before?
        I tend to open wounds with corkscrews and pour lemon juice inside before setting the whole limb on fire. aka i am more direct. def not what sounds like is needed in this part.
        of course i trust your approach on this. yours is an ethereal project. not about the guts and gore and mayhem.
        do you tend to map your editing moves before you make them?
        aint it scary either way? for me it feels like ten ton weights are clamped on my arms and they only disappear when ive typed the first edits onto the screen. for me, editing is pure hell mixed with terror.
        do you have that too?
        i gave the ‘brake makers’ hell.
        submitting tomorrow.
        i almost cant believe i’m saying that.
        i and submitting tomorrow.

        thanks for your support. and help. and belief in me getting this done.
        weve never met, but it worked. thru this blogpress matrix.
        hugs from my edge of the sphere to yours.
        o and om.

  3. I’ll be looking forward to hearing how it goes! Good luck! I found the whole process so fraught. But I think you are right – confidence is the key – after a huge pile of rejections, I had to regroup and remind myself that I believe in my story and this is a marathon, not a sprint!

    • hi marcy –
      the process is nerve-wracking! Confidence is definitely the key to getting through the lengthy process that is publishing. as authors, We must have undiminished faith even as the rejections come in.. But we must also adjust our sails to the wind sometimes, if we can sense the wind is blowing in another direction than we have our sails (queries) cast.

      One way to check if the letter is working is to see if you are getting asked for additional writing samples. If not, the letter needs adjusting.
      If the samples are not leading to request for fulls, then the letter is working, but you just need to keep at it until the right agent gets a read on what you’re doing. If no full requests are demanded, perhaps a quick restructure of the story (removing excess, tidying up the story, adding some more exciting/commercially viables scenes and plot lines – this is advice for fiction, of course) could be called for. Are any of the rejections personalized? If so, perhaps that’s a direction to look in.Again, this is a delicate process. We must have enough faith to not change our sails the minute any small wind blows. Speaking of sticking to your sails: I’ve read of authors that sent out a hundred queries before making “land. Sorry for the tedious ‘sailing for el dorado’ analogy, but it fits the process so fully I tend to use it more often than not when i think about what it’s like trying to get published.

      I always think of how proud stephen king was, taking his rejections and hanging them up like gold medals. He said, ” It means you are doing a big thing by getting your work out there!” He’s right. He wrote for 6/7 years before anything hit. Good for him he started at the age of 13…
      As for you… keep up the good work. You will win the marathon!!
      o and om.

      Let us know if you have any more questions.. maybe we can help?

      o and om

      • Dear O and Om,

        Thank you so much for the reply and the words of encouragement! I had a mixed bag of responses, although I think my letter definitely needs work. I had pitched the book at a writer’s conference and so was asked for pages after my verbal pitch, but I have not had pages requested from a “cold call” email query. I had trouble summarizing my story (sounds like your issue with your major plot twist) and finding good comparables/marketable aspects (“why does the market need your book now?” Heck if I know!! :D) Did you address those kinds of things in your letter and if so, how did you tackle it?

        I have had my novel out with a freelance editor but soon I will return to working on the query letter again.
        Have you heard back from anyone you’ve queried? I found the long waits/silences to be the worst, really. A “no thanks” was at least something!


      • hi marcy –
        i see…hmm. okay. i think the letter prob needs some fixing. but don’t panic. it only has to be 250/350 words in the end. remembering this is one of the few things that let me rest easy while i was crafting it. an overhaul, once you’ve written one version, is tedious but much easier than you’d imagine. im crafting a second more storied version for my letter as we speak. my story is all about the voice. the plot points on the surface might not read as wholly new, so i have to approach from the angle of… my characters voice is striking, honest to the raw/open bone… and pulls no punches. she’s daring, dark, funny, mysterious, maybe even a little twisted. readers will love her!!! (i’m banking on it)
        ok.. so i have to ask for more info..
        What are the basics of the book your selling? is it fiction or non fiction?
        what category are you writing in? YA? women’s? NA? thriller, mystery, romance? sci fi – these categories are important to note in the letter, because the agent has to know what kind of project it is in order to sell it. you can mix categories of course, but not too many, because then the project looks like a misfire… two or three categories max, should be noted.

        the agent also gets a clear sense about whether or not they are interested in the project from the category you place it in. agents want to spend a year or two with a book that is right down their alleys. listing categories up front shows that you know your work, the market, and you are sending to them because that’s what’s on their call lists.

        One of the best ways to discuss market opps for your book is also to note comparable titles…
        “my book will appeal to fan of ****, and ***”.
        “My book reads in the voice of ****”
        “the voice of my book is a cross of mr. *** from ****, and the narrator of ****.

        knowing titles that are like your book is a great way to know where your book sits in the marketplace and how it should be sold.

        what books are hot right now? check the sellers list and see if your book is like these book in some way. if so, make a note of that.

        Does the world need more books? no… but the world needs YOUR book. when people ask me that, I always like to answer in the affirmative (for any of my projects). And why does the world need YOUR book more than someone else’s? Because even though it has a category it fits into, it is a unique story – all you have to do is know why…
        is your perspective different? is your different setting? what about having a unique voice/
        basically: what makes your book unlike what’s already out there… that’s what agents want to know.

        also, why did you write your book? its a good question to ask because knowing why you wrote your book answers why your book is different from any others and what your message is. It’s safe to say you wrote a whole book/finished/edited/shared/and sought rep. in order to be sold… because you had something to say that wasn’t already said…. so what do you bring to the books telling that no one else can? experience? great talent as a proven writer? etc…

        ok.. gotta plug in the laptop to get some batt. juice. back in a few…


  4. ok were back. though odie wants to play.. .so i’m making this quick so he stops nibbling on my toes to get me away from the laptop..

    one of the best resources to find out good ways to write the letter is to google “query letters the worked”.
    you can find examples online that show what lured agents in for full/partial requests, etc. no need for me to warn you against copying anyones letter word for word :) but picking some paragraph layouts and seeing how agents are addressed, and projects are discussed/sold is super helpful.

    Let me know if this was helpful… and feel free to ask us any more questions.

    *** we just subbed our letters starting last week so we havent heard anything yet, but we are hoping to hear something soon!! the waiting is not easy. but we had an intuition to adjust our query before we got feedback. in the end i think we will send out three or four versions of the query and see what works.

    yes. sometimes there are no responses whatsoever. thats hard too. even a form letter is helpful.
    to see which agents are most responsive you can visit Query Tracker – a helpful website – and then click comments section under any agents names. to get more info, you can pay the site to join as a member. I havent dont that, but i have checked the comments sections to see how long agents respond and what they are responding to. its a cool site.

    o and om.

    • Thank you for the suggestions! Those are all good ideas – when in doubt, google! I hadn’t heard of Query Tracker before – I will check that out. I’d love to continue this conversation by email, if you are willing. You’ve been more helpful than just about anyone on this. If you use the “contact” tab at Illustrated Poetry, that will shoot me an email direct. I’m always up for a spirited exchange about such things like this one!

      The self-promotion/why does the world need my book part is the most difficult for me, so thanks for sharing your thoughts on that – it is very helpful.

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you that you hear back soon. Good luck! Thanks again!

      • Hi. M. E.
        I will email you soon. Bear with me… Know that I am happy to help if I can.
        I’m Just working up that second letter version I need for agents. I think I finally made some headway today, which will put me more at ease and definitely more avail. To exchange letters offline. Good idea to guard the details of the project until you’re signed :)

        Thanks for the well wishes for out wilting.
        We send you the same :)
        O and om 🐱


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s