I've just finished all of my revisions to my latest short story, SEVEN OUT, but now it's time to submit it. My goal is to get into the Kindle Singles program, and like most other selective venues there is a submission process: you need a query letter, synopsis, etc. This is my least favorite part of being an aspiring writer.
I sent out numerous query letters for my novel a couple years ago with no luck. Essentially the query process is sales: you struggle to even get a meeting with your potential customer, you only have a limited window to make your pitch and often the deal is settled on first impressions. Agents, publishers and their assistants receive thousands of query letters from hopeful authors trying to sell their work. Many agencies list that they accept maybe a couple dozen projects a year. That makes it extraordinarily difficult for literary professionals to sift through the mountains of submissions they receive. From the research I've done, even though your rejection letter says something to the effect of "we've carefully reviewed your submission," odds are the agent or publisher (likely their assistants) didn't even get to the end of your query letter, let alone read your synopsis or attached manuscript chapters, before making his or her decision. If you're like me, your thought is, "Well, if you'd read my actual work you'd like it!" We're both probably right, they would. The salesman could say the same thing if the potential client would actually give the product a chance. But publishing is just like every other business. Time is money, and literary professionals are short on both. So, we writers are stuck having to wow the reader of our query letters in the first sentence. We need to make that good first impression.
Here I am, setting myself and my work up for yet another rejection. The realist in me understands the unlikelihood of SEVEN OUT getting accepted, but I'm also an optimist and I know there are people who get accepted. Failure is good. That is how we learn. In hindsight, I've seen how my past letters could have been stronger, and I've since worked to improve my new query letter to make that great first impression. Two great resources I'd like to share are Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb and AgentQueryConnect.com. The book is a few years old, but it's written by an author and an agent and it gives a great sense of what goes on on both sides of the agent's desk. AQ is a community website for writers and features several forums where your writing peers can critique your query letters and synopses before you send them. I've found both to be tremendously valuable, and I can see a marked difference in the quality of my submission materials for this go around.
This is part of the writing game. You put yourself out there and get shot down, but you pick yourself up and try again. Hopefully, with the improvements I've made, this attempt will be a success. I'll be sure to keep you posted! Wish me luck!