If you’re an aspiring writer the game of getting published seems hard. No one really tells you what to do, and as games go, the publishing game seems mysterious from the outside. Agents and editors both are busy, and to get your book or story across, you need to capture their attention quickly so they’ll take a second look and want to read your finished book or partial QuickBooks desktop tool hub.
You can improve your chances in having your book — or books — seriously considered by a publisher or an agent by creating a winning query letter.
This is my current tip for aspiring novelists that I hope will help you cut through the confusing clutter of advice about pitching your novel — whether in a query letter to an agent or an editor, or if you actually get to meet an editor and sit face-to-face at a convention or other gathering.
I know how rough it can be, particularly when starting out. Believe in yourself, in what you write, and keep learning the craft.
The DO NOTS:
1. Do not go on and on in your query. No matter how wonderful you are, and no matter how fascinating it is to you to describe hundreds of pages of your novel in loving detail — it’s boring. Accept it and move on.
It’s the reading of the book that needs to be engaging and engrossing, and the only way an agent or editor may get to that is if your synopsis in your query letter is engaging, too.
2. Do not suck up. Seriously. No kissing of the derriere will sell your novel to any editor or agent, even if it works with your boss.
On the other hand, don’t insult ’em either, obviously.
Be direct, respectful, and as brief as you possibly can (but make sure you get across the gist of what’s great in your novel.)
All right, here goes.
This was part of a letter I sent to an aspiring novelist who asked about the query. It includes two “off the top of my head” synopses of novels of mine put in the form that I believe it is good to think about.
Do not imitate what I’ve written. Get the SPIRIT of it.
Your book has got to sell itself. The best you can do is pitch it, and step out of the way so your novel can work its magic on the editor or agent.
Having said that you absolutely need to make your story come alive in a few sentences. I can’t do that for you, but you can.
HERE’S THE DEEP DARK SECRET OF PITCHING YOUR NOVEL:
Imagine you have less than a minute to tell your friend about a great movie you just saw, or a terrific book you just read. In fact, pick one that you loved.
Describe it quickly, on paper. I bet you can do this in under a minute. If you can’t, then practice, practice, practice.
Find out what is unique and compelling in your book and put that into a few sentences.
Work on it.
Cut, shape, and take ten minutes afterward to make sure these sentences work.
The premise of your novel needs to be strong enough to be summed up quickly — otherwise, it stands a chance of sounding like a muddle or a series of abstractions that can’t find anything concrete to rest upon.
Plus this synopsis has to be interesting. And brief.
If you really want this book to sell, you have to be tough on this kind of stuff and make the leap to professionalism.
It’s simpler than you suspect.
If your novel has a strong premise, and you understand this premise (as you should — you had to believe in it enough to write an entire novel, right?) whittle those words down to three to six sentences that are compelling and at least tell what’s most important about the story:
Think in terms of the big picture.
Here’s an example for my novel Bad Karma, written under my pen name Andrew Harper:
“A beautiful, murderous patient of a psych hospital for the criminally insane is obsessed with the psych tech who cares for her. When he and his family vacation on Catalina Island off the coast of California, she goes on a rampage and escapes to hunt them down — because she believes that he is the reincarnation of a lover from her past life — Jack the Ripper. This is a fast-paced thriller dealing with reincarnation, human madness, and murder — set at both a psych hospital as well as on Catalina Island, with flashbacks to 19th century London with the Jack the Ripper scenes.”