Sunday, September 1, 2013

Query Shark - part 1

What does this picture of swimming with a shark have to do with getting a book published?

Well, nothing, really, but it does tie in indirectly to the process.  I want to get published, so I've been doing my research.  A friend of mine got published recently with a local history book, so he went the route of self publishing.  Small market, local area, probably the right choice.  Future King, however, is young adult and I would like to get it nation-wide.  So it seems that self publishing is probably not the best option.  Which means I need a publisher.

The book 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published says that if you seek out a publisher by contacting them directly, you're going to end up in the slush pile.  The slush pile is not a great place to be.  Chances of your manuscript making it out of the slush is very slim.  So how do you avoid the publisher slush pile?  Agents.

So my decision was to find an agent to represent me and (hopefully) take me to literary greatness.  I sat down and typed out what I thought was a pretty good query letter.  The only problem is that I don't know what a successful query letter looks like.  Plus, since I am not an agent, how do I know what they are looking for and what will set mine apart from everyone else's?  That's when Fate smiled upon me and directed my web surfing to Query Shark (  Thus the shark image above (see, there was a reason after all).

Agent Janet Reid hosts this blog where people can submit their query letter for her to tear apart and tell them all the things they went wrong.  What an invaluable service and she does this all for free.  Now, submitting a query to the Query Shark doesn't guarentee that she'll post your and tear it apart, but you have the chance.  A resource almost as valuable as getting the Shark to rip yours to shreds is reading all of the other ones.  In fact, to submit your letter to her, you must make a promise that you have indeed read all of the letters and their revisions before adding your own to the mix.  I did this.  It took days.  As I did it, I went back over mine and kept rewording it until I was done reading.  If you are about ready to submit, you NEED to visit this site. 

A few things I learned from her blog is to start with the book tease.  Don't waste time with an introduction about you and book background.  Start with the main character.  Be brief.  Keep your sentences to one breath if read out loud.  Limit the letter to 250 words.

There are more lessons I learned from her, but I suggest that you take the time to read the blog entries yourself.  I submitted my letter to her and maybe it will appear on her site, but it probably won't.  As she makes very clear, you have a greater chance of getting an agent to ask for more of yoru story than you do getting her to post your query, but it is worth a shot.

How about you?  Anyone else familiar with the blog?  Any Query stories of your own?

By the way, the picture at the top is a bit of a lie.  That is a dolphin, not a shark.  But it still looks cool.


  1. I absolutely LOVE Query Shark. I found it awhile ago, and I've been wading my way through the archives ever since, one shark-infested step at a time. I'm going to the Hampton Roads Writer's Conference in September, and I'll be pitching one of my novels (unfinished, currently 42,000 words) to Ethan Vaughn, a literary agent. As of yet, I haven't sent any queries anywhere, and this will be my first interaction with an agent. I hope all that Query-Shark-reading will pay off!

  2. Going to writing conferences is something I really need to start doing. Good luck with the pitch and let me know how it goes. All that Query Shark reading can't be harmful and I bet it will pay off. Maybe the agent will give you some good pointers as well even if he doesn't take the novel (which, of course, you can share with us here!).