I don’t think I’ve mentioned Miss Snark on this blog yet, but I’ve been faithfully reading her for the past couple months. She’s an anonymous agent in New York, and she fields questions from the world with, well, snark! She’s frequently quite hilarious and always cuts to the meat of what matters in the publishing industry. I’ve learned a ton from just reading her blog posts every day.
Anyway, as great as that is, she also has periodically run what she calls the Crapometer. She accepts submissions of query letter and first page from people, randomly selects from them and reads them like she would the slush pile. The only difference is that she then posts the results online for everyone to read and learn from. It was really quite amazing to read through, and I’m sure that when I’m getting ready to pitch I’ll go back and study in more detail. In any case, the take-aways:
That’s Miss Snark. Not Ms, Mrs, or “Dear Agent.” You’ve heard it before, but properly addressing your letter to a person is vital
Query letters need to indicate plot. I remember reading that over and over again–“This isn’t a plot, just a bunch of events.” Plot has conflict, a course of action and resolution.
Less common, though, plot is also not a complete synopsis. Keep it sharp, keep it short.
Only publishing credits count. It doesn’t matter where you live, what your job is (unless it’s pertinent to the story), or how many of your stories you posted online have gotten great comments. If you don’t have publishing credits (like yours truly), just don’t say anything at all.
Hopefully I’ll be able to put these tips into practice in the near future.