I'm thrilled to have Vickie L. Weavil, author of CROWN OF ICE and the newly released FACSIMILE with us today to offer her invaluable advice to those of us still in the query trenches. Be sure to scroll to the end of the post and enter for a chance to win your own copy of the fantastic and not-to-be-missed FACSIMILE!
My Advice for Writers Still in the Query TrenchesAuthors still struggling to make that connection with an agent and/or publisher often feel that there is some special “thing” they can do to make their dream a reality. If they can just write the perfect query letter, or get into that one contest, or write a book that will scream “future bestseller,” everything will work out.
by Vickie L. Weavil
by Vickie L. Weavil
Having been there, here are my bits of advice on this topic:
1. There is NO perfect query.
No one writes a query that will instantly attract everyone who reads it. This is not because no one writes a brilliant query, it is more a factor of the subjectivity of the publishing business. What is attractive to one agent or publisher makes others yawn.
Polish your query, but don’t wait to query until you have the “perfect” letter. Once you have done your best, send out a few and see what response you get. You can always tweak the query for future submissions if you don’t initially get a good response rate.
2. Word Count DOES count.
Let’s be honest – unless you have written a book so compelling it makes angels weep, NO ONE wants your 175,000 word young adult debut novel. Research and learn the appropriate word count for your age group and genre, and try to stay within those limits.
“But,” you say, “Author X just published a 900 page novel that’s selling like beer at the Super Bowl.” Well yes, but Author X is a famous, established writer. Their book is a sure thing, whereas a book from a debut author is a very iffy proposition. It actually does cost a lot more to produce a longer book, and publishers are (rightfully) leery of investing in a huge book that may or may not sell.
So, my advice is to trim that 150,000 YA fantasy down to a more reasonable 75,000 to 80,000 words. Because if you don’t, I’m afraid you are guaranteeing yourself a LOT of automatic rejections.
3. Query vs Synopsis: One thing is not like the other.
A query is NOT a synopsis. You do need a synopsis (more about that later) but the query should not read like one.
Queries should read more like the blurb on the back of a book. Queries are meant to hook and sell your book concept to an agent or publisher. Even plot details you consider essential can be omitted if they do not SELL the book. My query for CROWN OF ICE (which you can read here: https://chasingthecrazies.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/quite-the-query-vicki-l-weavil-with-crown-of-ice/ omits many important plot points. But it presents the essential idea of my character, her challenges, and the stakes. (Trust me, I struggled to get it into this shape!)
Oh and, if you think writing queries is only something you have to do while attempting to snag an agent or publisher, think again. You will write them for every new book, only now they are called “pitches” or “blurbs.”
4. Use something like Query Tracker.
If you are not already doing so, it is helpful to use something like Query Tracker (https://querytracker.net/ -- it’s free!) to organize your query submissions. This will help avoid the dreaded “I sent that query to the same agent twice” issue and will keep you sane. (Well, with querying, that’s probably impossible, but it will alleviate some of the confusion). Some people use spreadsheets or other methods, but whatever you do – keep track! There’s nothing worse than sending another query to an agent who has already rejected you. (Uhm, I may have done this once, when I first started out!)
5. Yes, you DO need a synopsis. In fact, you need more than one.
Look, I hate writing the things too, but you really should have a synopsis written before you query. Why? Because when your killer query and first pages get you umpteen full requests, the agent or publisher will want a synopsis ASAP. So write one – a longer version to start (maybe up to 5 pages), then cut that down to a 2 page version, then cut THAT down to one page version. If you do that, you will likely be ready for whatever is requested.
Also, just like the query, a synopsis is something you will need to write for all your future books, even after you are agented/published. So it pays to learn how to write them!
6. You are playing a long game.
Being an author is not a one-shot, I “made it,” deal. You need to prepare yourself to be in this business for the long haul, and handle a lot of ups and downs. Even after you snag an agent, and that marvelous pub. deal, there will still be books to write, revise, and promote. Some of those books may sell well, others will not, and that’s the way it is. The best plan I have discovered to cope with all the stress and uncertainty is – KEEP WRITING. (Also, connect with, and promote other authors. They will be your best allies, along with your readers).
You may not make enough on your first book – or your tenth book – to retire and write full-time. But, when you build a catalog of titles, you also build your skill level, a reader base, and the ability to generate income with your writing. So, hang in there, and always remember that you have the power, and privilege, to create new worlds, filled with wonderful characters. There really is nothing better than that!
Facsimile by Vicki L. Weavil
Publication Date: March 8, 2016 from Month9Books
For a ticket to Earth, seventeen-year-old Anna-Maria “Ann” Solano is willing to jettison her birth planet, best friend, and the boy who loves her. Especially since all she’s required to do is escort Dace Keeling, a young naturalist, through the wilderness of the partially terraformed planet Eco. Ann‘s determination to escape the limitations of her small, frontier colony never falters, until Dace’s expeditions uncover three secrets. One offers riches, one shatters Ann’s perceptions of herself, and one reveals that the humans stranded on Eco are not its only inhabitants.
Ann’s willing to sacrifice friendship and love for a new life on Earth. But when an entire species is placed in jeopardy by her actions, she must make a choice – fulfill the dream that’s always sustained her, or save the planet she’s never considered home.
About Vickie L. Weavil
Vicki L. Weavil was raised in a farming community in Virginia, where her life was shaped by a wonderful family, the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an obsession with reading. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Virginia, a Masters in Library Science from Indiana University, and a Masters in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After working as a librarian at the NY Public Library at Lincoln Center, and the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) in NYC, she is currently the Director for Library Services at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Vicki loves good writing in any genre, and has been known to read seven books in as many days. She enjoys travel, gardening, and the arts. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats. A member of SCBWI, Vicki is represented by Fran Black at Literary Counsel, NY, NY.
Enter to win a copy of Facsimile!
Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Facsimile by Vicki L. Weavil (INT.) Contest ends March 25, 2016.
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