Lamar Giles
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Querying: learn from the mistakes of others…

The saying goes, “A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

If you plan to query anytime soon, you need to LIVE THIS MOTTO.

As great as it is to see a good sample query letter (like you’ll find in Writer’s Market or at any number of sites that feature sample queries), it’s even better to see bad (horrible…terrifying) queries.

Two blogs stand out, and if you’re not reading them, you should be:

Query Shark

In my opinion, Query Shark is the most helpful query critique site on the web. Agent Janet Reid brutalizes willing submitters, breaking down the (oft-common) flaws in their query, even calling out the exact moment when she’d stop reading the letter. Sound harsh? Good.

Here’s the thing, those who end up as The Shark’s chew toy have the option to revise and resubmit for another chomping. While each subsequent feeding is just as brutal as the first, many submitters eventually get it right, earning a full manuscript request from The Shark herself.

If you’re serious about doing queries the right way, swim here.

Slushpile Hell

Though posts in Slushpile Hell rarely exceed two sentences, the lessons are invaluable.

Anonymous agents submit a single line from a single, sad query and offer a sarcastic/snarky/mean humorous response. It can be enjoyed for pure comedy, or it can be studied. Dissected. Branded into your mind.

Never do what these writers do.

The Formula

The query letter formula is all over the web, but for easy reference I like The Nelson Agency’s break down. Study the right way and the wrong way.

Next time, I’ll talk about what to do when you’ve followed the formula and it isn’t working…

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