Query letters are a necessary part of a writer's toolbox. Each writer hopes that theirs is the one that will catch an editor's attention, and even, perhaps, touch their heart. There are guidelines that help writers shape their query letter drafts into pieces of writing that meet the publishing industry's standards. Knowing the Query Basics is required for emerging writers, and was the topic of the May Hollywood Schmooze.
Attendees presented articles about querying from various sources.
The following is an excerpt from: The Blabbermouth Blog by literary agent Linda Epstein of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency (May 6, 2014).
Epstein wrote: "You are not a snowflake. You are not special or unique or even much of an individual. Well, perhaps you are, but not when it comes to following submission guidelines. Here's the thing: submission guidelines aren't really guidelines in the sense of a recommendation, suggestion, or a bit of advice, they're rules! You may say to yourself...'they need to know the true me...' But if you don't follow an agent's submission guidelines (rules), you're probably not going to get them to even look at your work."
Epstein then noted the following suggestions in her May 6th blogpost.
" Research the agent and read their submission guidelines.
No attachments: put your writing sample in the body of the email.
Pay attention to how many pages an agent states they will read and limit your sample to that number.
Of course we all know some rules can be broken, so be sure to read the agents guidelines for exceptions to the above."
From agent Mary Cole (kidlit.com), via a handout from the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles (CBW-LA), come comments on Punching Up Your Plot Paragraph. A reading of Cole's questions on how to build a plot paragraph, shows that by answering these questions, a writer could have the dramatic elements (succinctly told, of course) that might make a query tug at those heart strings.Editors, and their assistant readers, are in touch with their emotions or they wouldn't be into literature (I think...).
Who is your character?
What strange thing is going on in their life that throws them off their equilibrium and launches the story?
What (or who) do they want most in the world?
Who (or what) is their ally?
Who (or what) is in the way of them getting what they want most in the world (their obstacle)?
What is at stake if they don't get what they want?
Incidentally, the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles (CBW-LA) is headed by SCBWI's very own Nutschell Anne Windsor!
Schmooze writers took time to read their own query letters, mentally comparing them to what we'd learned, or been reminded of during the Schmooze. Then we took time to socialize, catching up on what's happening in our writing--and other--lives!