I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Deal With Contradictory Query Advice

Nathan Bransford has recently written a fantastic blog post on dealing with contradictory query advice. The post gives an agent's perspective into an issue I discussed in an earlier post - Top Tip #1 - Querying (Database for Queries).

His key points:
  • take a deep breath
  • remember that agent blogs are just trying to help
  • not all publishing advice is created equal (some posts might be out of date)
  • try to meet an agent's specifications but don't go crazy trying to do it
  • if you think contradictory query advice is mind-boggling, wait until you reach publication stage
Basically, do your research, but "don't sweat the small stuff!"

Great advice, thanks Nathan.


Lisa Potts said...

I can't believe I wasn't already following your blog! I hadn't seen Nathan's post, so thanks for the summary.

Rachael Harrie said...

Hi Lisa, welcome on board :)

Carolyn said...

I think it's one of those areas where, as a writer, you do a bit of research, you do a bit of guesswork, and you remain optimistic!

Rachael Harrie said...

Great point Carolyn, that's so true. Here's to being optimistic!!!

Faith said...

Good advice -- but so hard to follow at the time, when you're staring at the advice and wondering why the world has gone crazy! Haha.

Tessa Quin said...

It's just silly that some agents insist upon having the query synopsis start straight away and others want an introduction and to know why you're querying. Why can't they all just agree upon one form of query and get used to reading them like that?

I suppose it's to avoid multi-agent-submissions, but still...

Rachael Harrie said...

That's so true Faith. And we only get one shot at a query (generally speaking)... I've always erred on the side of trying to make that shot count as much as possible, but it's enough to make your head spin! :)

Rachael Harrie said...

Ooh, I like the idea of a standardized query letter, Tessa. Avoid all the contradictory advice out there... Perhaps we should start a committee (LOL) :)

Adina West said...

I have to admit that I sort of took a middle position with my query letter, avoiding anything that the internet-gods tell us agents *HATE* while trying to tick every box on the Query checklist.

Ultimately I did end up with two versions - an original and a revamped one. The original one started with "I'm writing to seek representation for..." while the revamped (and perhaps more punchy) version went straight into introducing the main character after saying "Dear Agent X..." The second version felt (to me at least) more oriented for the US Agent market.

But I really don't think it is totally critical, as I sent out quite a few of each query and had requests for pages/chapters from each version of the letter. Unfortunately even a successful query letter can still lead to a negative response to the chapters/pages. Sigh.

Rachael Harrie said...

That's interesting to hear about your two versions Adina, and it's great that you got requests from each version :) I guess it's a sign that the query itself is doing its job. A way forward now might be to take another look at your first 50 pages, see if there's anything you can do to improve their "punch". Don't give up, you can do it!!!

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