A lot of posts on this blog are about query letters (85 in the Query letter category, another chunk among the 32 in the rant category). If you read all of those one after another, you might get the idea I loath query letters.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I find my fabulous clients MOST OFTEN via query letter. I found Gary Corby there, I found Bill Cameron there, I found Patrick Lee there, I found Amy Minato, and Adam Eisenberg, and Richard Gilbert there. I found Jeff Somers there.
And those are the clients that queried me cold: no intro from anyone.
Many of my other fabulous clients also arrived via query, but with some sort of intro (Eric Stone from his editor for example; Evan Mandery from a colleague of mine; DawnRae Downton from Stephany Evans who said "this is a terrific idea, and you're just the one to sell it.")
A good query is exciting. A good query about a project that makes your heart beat faster is wonderful. I love those moments.
But, you need to remember the default answer on all query letters is no. I'm not looking for reasons to say no. I assume no.
I'm looking for reasons to say yes. That means I'm looking for voice; I'm looking for an idea that I think is fresh and new; I'm looking for a project I'm confident I can pitch and sell.
I don't go through your query letters and tic off all the "mistakes" you make. I don't go through your queries and think "ok, you spelled my name wrong, you're done." I don't go through my queries and think "Arial font, not TNR, you're toast."
The default answer is already no.
What I look for is language facility and dexterity; amazing voice; compelling story. You can write in GaramondSansSerif 2 if you want. You can spell my name "Barbara Poelle" if you want. If you write something I want to read, I will read it. I'm going to rant about it, you bet, but I'm going to read it.
So, you might ask, why all the ranting and carrying on about query letters and how to do them? Why say "write your query in TNR, not Garamond SanSerif 2" if it really doesn't matter?
The fewer barriers to seeing your work, the better. The fewer barriers to reading your pages, the more likely I'll read more. The means if you send it in easy to read TNR 12, with enough white space in an equery that I'm not looking at a block of text, the MORE likely I might see the phrase that leaps out at me from paragraph four. Or six.
The default answer is no. Getting your form right, getting the presentation right, getting the right kinds of information in a query letter and keeping the wrong kinds out, just helps me see your work, not get bogged down in 'oh man where does the good stuff start."
Because the default answer is no, I'm reading queries with the idea I will be rejecting most of them. Getting the form right, getting the presentation right, getting the right info in, and the wrong info out, that makes me pause in my blisteringly fast reading rate and pay more attention.
More attention is what you want. More attention = good.
I value your queries, and I'm glad to get them and read them.
I hope that comes across here.
If not, I guess I too need to work on showing, rather than telling!