This past weekend I attended a writers conference. It was my first conference ever. The day started out great. I was lucky enough to be able to have a table where I could set up and display my book for the other conference attendees. I was also able to get a professional head shot. (I’ve been wanting/needing to get one done for quite some time).
All the guest speakers were awesome! I learned a lot, especially in the self publishing area.
The session that broke me was the Query Letter Gong Show. Let me explain…an agent and two acquiring editors (all from different publishing houses), read your query letter. They ring the gong when they come across something that would make them stop reading. I submitted my query letter for City of the Gods: The Descendant…that was my first mistake.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m open to constructive criticism, that’s why I submitted my query in the first place. I wanted to know what I could do to make my query the best it could possibly be. I knew when I submitted it that there would be things that needed to be fixed…
The gong was rung on the first line of the query.
Already? This isn’t a good sign…
There’s a typo… an ‘a’ instead of ‘as’
Holy shiznit! Really? An agent will stop reading for that tiny of a mistake? F*** me! I’m screwed.
Then there was discussion on whether or not to continue on…
At this point, I’m not sure if I’m as prepared as I thought I would be for this session.
The decision is to continue on like the typo didn’t happen. The gong was not rung again… Thank you Lord!, but then, the discussion begins. Oh, no…
The Agents opinion: It’s too factual. It comes off as a history lesson. Since it is an urban fantasy, she wants to see/feel excitement, which she isn’t getting from the description. Also unless you have been with a major publishing company, there’s no need to put prior publishing accomplishments into the letter. (In the letter I stated the book was previously published with a smaller company that had closed and that all rights had reverted back to me). See, I was listening, even though I was horrified that the query was definitely not up to par, and even more horrified that the book for the query being ripped to shreds was, at that very moment, sitting on a display table. How in the H-E-double hockey sticks was my book ever picked up by a publishing company to begin with???
The agent did say the idea for the story was interesting, but the description sounded boring, so the writing was probably boring as well. Again, I’m screwed. I said good bye to any sales I might have made that day. *Blows kisses & waves as dreams fly out the door* You will be missed.
The editors were a bit nicer, but agreed with a lot the agent said.
Here’s the kicker: I submitted 4 different queries. I went through this 4 times. (By the end of the first one, I was ready to kick myself for submitting anything). There were 2 for short stories and one for the sequel to City of the Gods: The Descendant. I thank my lucky stars there wasn’t enough time to go through and shred the query for book 2. I learned my lesson the first go round thank you.
The Query Letter Gong Show has held in a smaller room while another session was being held in the main room. I feel fortunate in the fact that only 20-30 people attended the gong show. If they paid any attention at all to what was said, they knew exactly who I was. Those 20-30 people will probably never buy my book. =(
I went to the conference hoping to learn a lot (which I did), but to also come out motivated and ready to continue writing (which I didn’t). I went home ready to throw in the towel.
You know what I did instead? I contacted my publisher and told her we need to rework the blurb on the back of my book, because it probably wasn’t hooking a reader the way it should. I talked to my husband and a good friend about it, who both encouraged me to continue writing because the story is a good one.
AND, a reviewer contacted me via Twitter to tell me how much she was enjoying City of the Gods: The Descendant, that it was an intriguing and unique story.
Having my query ripped to shreds may have momentarily knocked me down, but I’m not out. It’s time to put on my big girl panties! I will take what the agent and editors said and use it to my advantage. I will make my writing better.
I also hope my query helped the other writers that were in the room, because that was really the point of the query letter session to begin with. If my example helped someone learn what to do or what not to do then the session was a success.
Want to see the City of the Gods: The Descendant query letter? I’ve posted it in the comments section.