Matthew Warner

Query Letter Hell

This month, I polished a manuscript for a new fantasy novel and sent it off to three beta readers I trust.

While they’re reading it, I’ve been writing the marketing materials I’ll need to interest a literary agent, starting with the dreaded query letter. A query letter is a one-page solicitation to send to literary agents to entice them to read the manuscript and hopefully then to offer representation. It’s taken me a week to figure out how to write it the right way, and I’m still not sure if it’s getting close. An ongoing writer’s workshop, on a message board at the Absolute Write Water Cooler website, has been extremely helpful. The 2015 edition of Writers Market has outdated advice and is next to worthless.

Today, I started in on the extended synopsis. A synopsis may or may not be requested by an agent, depending on the submission guidelines. The current advice is to have two forms ready: a long synopsis and a short synopsis. The short synopsis should be 1,000-2,000 words long. My novel is 102,000 words long. I’m two-thirds of the way through my manuscript and already have 3,000 words. I’m guessing this one will be the “long” synopsis. Once I’m done, I’ll do the surgery to shorten it to the shorter form.

Oh, joy. Not.

On both of these projects, my mood is somewhere between having a good time and wanting to stab my eyes out with chopsticks. “It’s just a writing exercise!” I tell myself. “I looooove writing, yes I do!” And then I give the ole cylinder of the gun another spin and dry-click it against my head.

Oh, and get this. Some agents might even request a market analysis. That means having intelligent responses ready for questions about target audiences and comparable titles by other writers. This, after all the writing advice that says, “Don’t worry about what genre it is or where it fits into the spectrum. Just write the thing.”

Spin. Click. Spin. Click.

I’d be interested to hear about other writers’ experiences.