Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Query Letter And Partials

It seems this just may be "query letter month" for agents. With summer over and the Frankfort Book Fair behind them, I assume the query letters are piling up and up upon the desks and in the email in-box.

As I mentioned before in the post, A Few Interesting Tidbits..., over at Bookends, Jessica has taken the needed valium, and offered to comment on query pitches left in comments in the post, Perfecting Your Pitch. And actually Jessica seems to be doing it quite well, as she took the first six that were of interest to her and did a fine job in critique, in the post, Pitch Critiques Round 1. Of course, old Snark fans will not find the cutting-edge sarcasm we were used to in Miss Snark, but then again, it is much easier to see the problems and positive points when laid out in a serious professional manner. Jessica should get an award for taking the time in order to help those fledging writers out there. If you are courageous go leave your query in the comments, (but follow her suggestions first in Perfecting Your Pitch. And even if you are not that courageous take a good look at the Critiques and follow them as you will learn something.

Over @ Pub Rants, Agent Kristin, of the Nelson Literary Agency, has taken a different approach to query letter writing. In a series of posts so far:
Here Kristin runs through the various types of queries for some different genres. What Kristin does is basically take well known books and show you how they might be pitched to an agent. This allows you to focus on the overall requirements for a query letter, and lets you see just how your genre may be pitched. I personally gravitated to the Blog Pitch Workshop (Part IV) as Kristin does something there which to my mind is quite important. In that Pitch Workshop she shows you how to pitch "Literary Fiction" which personally I think is one of the hardest things to pitch. (Combine literary fiction with short story collections and you really have a big problem!) Here I will give you a little quote from the Literary Fiction Pitch Workshop.
"Since I’m in a serious mode after Story Of A Girl, let’s move on to the hardest type of novel to pitch well in a query letter— literary fiction.

Now why do I say this is the hardest to pitch? Because literary fiction, typically, isn’t driven largely by plot elements, unlike most genre fiction. More often than not, the focus is on character development. Now that doesn’t mean that literary works can’t have a high concept to drive it but often that is secondary to what is to be explored.

However, I highly recommend that if you write literary fiction, you find that catalyst or event that launches the story because every work of literary fiction does have it."
From experience, I have to agree that Literary Fiction is incredibly difficult to pitch, and certainly does not present the normative possibilities when writing your query letter. Take a look at what she does in that post if you are writing Literary Fiction.

I strongly suggest if you are in the midst of writing your queries, or want to learn what this stage is all about to go take a look at Bookends & Pub Rants.

Next on the list is let us say your query works. Now the agent turns around and requests a partial from you. Over @ The Rejecter the anonymous query letter reader (who has a bit of snarkiness in her!) has posted two interesting posts on the partial process. The first, The Literal First Five Pages, tells you what to do when you are asked for the first five pages. Actually the suggestions in this post are fairly logical and straightforward, but then again who knows what the person is thinking when they actually receive a request for a partial.

The second post, Inside the Partials Process, is a bit more down-to-earth and makes you realize your partial is still a long way off from the end of the road. This lays it out for you - straight and to the point. Since The Rejecter is actually the one who reads this stuff, it is not a bad idea to take a look at her posts on the process and try and follow most of her suggestions. Remember though two points. She is talking from the perspective of one Literary Agency. So read, understand and then follow the clear and good advice she gives, but always make sure the agent you are dealing with wants the same thing.

Well there you have the Query round up. One other place which may be worth your while to search out. When Miss Snark upped and left us bereft of her wit, she kindly left her blog up and did not delete it. You may want to take a look there, but be warned, there is an incredible amount of posts and information in her blog to wade through. And if you are not used to her "snarkiness" you may be turned off by her approach. Nevertheless it is still an important source of information for writers and authors.

Posted On: Cobwebs Of The Mind

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