It’s cold.Here are four things that warm me up to a query—
- Author is an author. I can hear you now, “What do you mean, Ben? Every author is an author.” But you are wrong, my friend. When things come in by query, I often run across these, too: (1) author is a get rich quick type who thinks rehashing an episode of The Wire is a way to filling the vault (2) author is a hobbyist who “so, last year after my divorce I decided that I wanted to be a writer,” though he hasn’t read any books since his senior year of high school and hasn’t ever written anything before and is not a creative person thinks he can will his way through a manuscript, because, “how hard can it be to type 75,000 words?” The are a bunch more archetypes, but predictably enough, I’m too lazy to list them all. All you need to know is that it makes me happy when it’s clear the query letter was written by somebody who cares about the written word and has been a disciple of it for a long time.
- Author understands that the publishing business is unpredictable/in flux/non-sensical. Things may be getting better for some authors with the ‘splosion of ebook opportunities. Sales may be tanking for authors/books that used to be guaranteed winners. Creating buzz for a title is a non-scientific process that stumps everybody, everywhere, all the time. When I get a query letter from somebody promising to get on Oprah or to make the NYT best seller list, I roll my eyes like marbles. When somebody mentions that they aren’t writing to get rich, I give the psychic high five.
- The query person shows personality. So many queries come across as robotic and ripped directly from a Mad Libs template. Listen, I know writing a query isn’t really fun, and it’s nerve wracking, but part of that is because authors psych themselves out. Be yourself. I want to know I’m hearing from a one of a kind person and not a workbook tear out.
- Know what we publish. Sometimes I get a query from somebody who wants to let me know how big of a fan he is of our publishing house. There’ll be some namedropping done. A few disparate titles from our line. A random grouping of authors. If it’s the right grouping, I believe he has read them and I’ll take a closer look at the query. If it’s clearly a random grouping, then I think somebody is following the template from #3 and I tune out.
Stay warm out there, wherever you are.
I’m currently freezing.