Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BACK - and the Query Shark!

I wrote this yesterday figuring I'd post it last night. Now it's being posted today:

Big thanks to AT&T for confusing February 12th with "this very instant" and cutting off my internet (and VOIP) while on hold with the cancellation department. Bigger thanks to AT&T for their inability to reconnect my service without being directly inside my apartment. Four Internet free days doesn't seem like Chinese water torture, but I couldn't wait to get to work every morning so that I could check my email. Fingers trembling as I waited for the computer to boot. And that's sad.

[Editor's note: THREE more hours on hold today. The tech didn't ever show up. It's finally hooked back up. Total time on the phone: 5 hours. Oh, and I have to call back to get service canceled.]

Monday, I came in to find that the Query Shark posted my query! Even better - even though the query was pretty god-awful, she said she'd read the book anyways. This is huge; this made me feel delighted.

Since the query was based on my second, far-shorter draft, I've been updating it. I really don't know how to write a good query, and the only way I can get better is through critiques. Sure, there's advice all over the internet. Most of it is conflicting.

Here's some advice I've heard on writing queries:
* Get in and get out in as few words as possible. You just want to introduce your work.
* No gimmicks, unless they work.
* Include a bio.
* Don't include a bio, unless you've been previously published.
* Pretend you're writing the back cover of your book.
* Be professional, be curt. Don't pretend you're writing to a friend.

So after several tries, I pretended I was a librarian and asked myself what I'd write. I summarized the book's set-up and themes. And it was DULL. No positive responses, except from the Query Shark.

After a few rejections, I rewrote the query and polished it up a little. Same thing, but I traded the tight suspenders for a decent belt. It read a little better, and this is the query that netted me a critical response (though positive!) from the great literary agent.

Last night, I completely scrapped and rewrote the query, looking at some of the suggestions from the Query Shark. Some people found parts of the setup confusing. The biggest complaint, and the truest, was that it was BORING. And it was. I didn't have a 'voice'; I was writing a book report. So I rewrote the query, pretending I was my main character: how would HE summarize the book?

It's still geeky and uses too many 25 cent words. But I think it's a lot better. I'm going to send the revision to the Query Shark and see what she makes of it - knock on wood, she'll let me know what works and what doesn't.

My wife is waiting her turn to get online. Four days is too long.


  1. Gotta love the phone company. Hint: BILL THEM for the 5 hours you spent on the phone. My friend in Omaha did that after spending a total of 7 hours on hold over a week and a half. They actually paid her! Not kidding. 16 dollars an hour, which was what she billed them because it's what she made at her job.

    Have you checked out querytracker.net? Go there and click on Forums (upper right corner). Fantastic site for getting query polished up, plus you can track your queries on the QT main page after you sign up (it's free). Can't tell you how wonderful it is to have a place to store everything. You can make a query list and track who you sent to, who you got feed back from, who rejected, who requested, etc...
    Great site.

    Good luck!

    ps. What do you mean your wife is waiting for HER turn on the internet? Haven't you ever heard of LADIES FIRST? (kidding, kidding)

  2. That's a damn good idea. I'll have to look into writing a bill - in a couple of weeks, I'll have free time on my hands, and if they paid up, I'd be a lot happier than "we'll cut this month's bill in half." $15 dollars is not worth it.

    I've been checking out the querytracker.net forums! I still need to create an account so that I can post my query and see what others think - I like this one a LOT better, but it's pretty long (about 300 words, though some of it is bio.) But that's going to be so much easier than tracking through gmail labels, the way I am now.

    And yeah, ladies first, but last night, it was age before beauty!! :-)