Friday, October 24, 2008
Query letter advice from Debora M. Coty
This is some helpful advice I found over at Grit For the Oyster blog!
I received a letter from an aspiring writer this week. She had heard me speak about publishers' interest in a writer's "platform" and wondered what I meant by that. She had completed a children's book and in consulting Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide, had learned that her targeted publisher first wanted a query, and then a request for the manuscript would follow if their interest was piqued. What was my advice?
Since the purpose of this blog is to assist aspiring writers on their journeys, I some of you might benefit from my answer:
That's terrific that you're to the point of shopping your manuscript around. I think you'll find the vast majority, if not all, publishers will want a query unless you attend a writers conference where you can meet them face to face (I highly recommend this approach if you're ready to pitch your proposal/manuscript). It's not cheap ($500 - $700) but well worth it to bypass the query step (often the queries are answered by "underlings" and the real editors never even see them).
You can Google "Christian Writers Conferences" to find one that emphasizes inspirational childrens publishing.
You should be able to click on a list of the publishers/editors scheduled to attend - do a little research and see if any of those are a good match for your book. Most conferences allow you to officially meet with 3-4 but you can also sit by them at meals and pick their brain or woo them while they eat. I'll be teaching a few workshops there as faculty.
I sold two of my books via this method (conferences) and I know countless other writers who have done the same. You have a much better chance if they meet you and hear your pitch in person. Plus, you get instant invaluable feedback if something needs tweaking so you can work on it before pitching it to another publisher.
If you decide not to go the conference route, I'd focus all your attention on crafting a killer query (one-page, single-spaced pitch letter). I spend almost as much time on my queries as I do on my manuscripts. Editors spend an average of 9 seconds reading them (because they receive thousands per week) so yours had better be good! Start with an attention-grabbing hook - no "throat clearing" introduction, just jump right into meat of your story.
In your query, Include a short synopsis, marketing plan, and bio paragraph explaining your platform. Your "platform" is how people will know about you and your book - are you a speaker? Expert on some topic related to your book? Do you hold public office? With my first book, The Distant Shore, I really had no platform (except my freelance magazine articles) and my only qualification was that I was a life-long Floridian and the book was set in old Florida. So I played that up. When I began shopping around Mom Needs Chocolate (to be released 3/09), I built my platform around my expertise as a mother (hey, I know whence I speaketh!) and connection with mom's groups.
Read the rest here!