Reflection on a Query Letter Workshop: Finishing Projects with Polish and Cover Reveal

learnhow-toseeI love how Leonardo da Vinci studied the human body and when drawing diagrams of arm length, height and movement, he made a circle around his figure and added lines to show the movement within that circle.

I’m thinking Leonardo was one of the smartest men alive, creating a connection in his work, a ring that tied all the parts together.

Everything we do has a connection in some way, in writing, dreaming, and life. I’m also thinking that’s what I might have been missing until now.

Recently, I took a workshop on query letters through Writer’s Digest. I understood how most letters should follow a three-paragraph format. I didn’t quite get the importance of the bold polish or how the flow in all the paragraphs is just as important as the words in each one.

The Opening Paragraph

What you want to say should be brief and meaningful, and quite possibly as short as a tweet. I understood it had to be eye catching, but what I didn’t quite understand was how the opening paragraph had to be everything. I watched the one hour online Powerpoint which mentioned personalizing the letter to each specific agent. It also mentioned the importance of referencing well known books, so naturally, I wondered which way to go. Since the course was online based, we were able to chat with our assigned agent for a two hour block. I dropped the question, whether agents preferred the personalization or the book comparison.  Her response was, “Both please.”

Both? I scratched my head. What in the world? Do they want blood, skin? I wasn’t quite sure how to write an opener personalized to the agent with books that weren’t too bold, such as Twilight and Harry Potter, and which books would be acceptable without suffering another fast rejection. During my lunch break, the light bulb went on. Goodreads. Research the books the agent you’re trying to catch, likes.

I made my changes and submitted my letter for critique. Three nail biting weeks passed and finally I heard back. I read through her comments impressed with her details and the balance of the good with the not so grand. The biggest problem was my opening paragraph. She’d loved it, after she’d scratched through the first three sentence. She’d said it was really intriguing and captured her attention right away, if all the fluff on top had been deleted.

Second Paragraph

The book synopsis. The paragraph I despise the most. 🙂

I had a great three to four sentence synopsis. It was perfect, brilliant, straight to the action in my manuscript. A friend of mine helped me write it, because sometimes, when we’re so close to something and we’ve spent so much time wanting it to work, we love everything. We can’t figure out how to streamline the bigger picture. However, the agent mentioned my great synopsis no longer fit with the brilliant opening line. Arg! She said she stretched to find a connection and it was sort of there, but not enough to seal the deal, if I really wanted to hook her attention. Back to Leonardo, everything you write, should relate.

Third Paragraph.

Sell you in such a way, there’s not a bit of doubt about your willingness to work and keep working. There’s a magic number in how many followers you need to be truly marketable aside from your family. I think from what I understand, it’s somewhere around 5,000. Don’t lose heart. You can still catch the eye of an agent if you share what you’re doing to improve yourself in the writing and marketing world. Don’t be meek or humble, and definitely don’t mention any meek and humble words.

The First Five Pages.

Make sure they are your first five pages. Make sure you’ve proofed it for passive context, action, and as I found out, they do prefer opening sentences with a scene verses dialogue. Give them the theme in the first sentence, then keep supporting that theme as you write.

It’s a lot right? I think though, if you want it, you’ll get it. It might take lots and lots of frustrating new beginnings. It might take a constant “creating yourself,” attitude. But in the eight years I’ve really tried to breathe life into my dream, I’ve seen the pay offs. I’ve reread my sentences and old drafts, and I believe now, patience is most definitely the best virtue.

Lastly today …

Great News!

I’m getting published with 11 other talented authors! Thank you to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the judges and Freedom Fox Press, a division of Dancing Lemur Press, for this amazing dream come true.

Here is the really fantastic new cover!

Hero Lost

Mysteries of Life and Death

An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Stay tuned for more updates 🙂

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on January 23, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Great tips, Erika. The ghost of Mark Twain tells me there is a very good reason that the first syllable of synopsis is Sin! 🙂

  2. Mark’s ghost thinks you would like his critique of 5O SHADES OF GREY from a few days ago on my blog. 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing what you learned about queries. I look forward to reading your anthology story and marketing the book with you!

  4. Super informative! Thanks for sharing the details of the workshop, it sounds pretty incredible. I can’t wait to read your story in the anthology!

  5. Thanks for sharing – I’ll definitely remember the Leonardo da Vinci circles when writing queries 🙂 All the best with the anthology.

  6. Thanks for sharing your reflections on the query workshop. I dread the day that I ever have to write a query letter. It sounds so complicated and hard to get just right.

  7. That is some awesome info! Even when you’re not querying, it’s great info to know because you still need to write book blurbs, taglines, etc.

    I’m, still playing catch up with all the IWSG book info and promo. I need a higher level of energy!

    • That’s so true Elizabeth. Thank you for
      Stopping in…I am currently in reverse…I think I desperately need to hit the gym and work out some of this stress…lol. Maybe together we could find Zen. 🙂

  8. Well you survived the workshop, so you deserve something awesome. I’m so stoked to read the anthology. Why oh why must we wait until May? 😉

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