I want to thank everyone who contributed their input to help improve my query letter by visiting the QQQE last week. Obviously I have a ways to go, but now I’m one step closer to being ready. I must have revised that query letter a bazillion times and as I contemplate incorporating what I learned from Matt, my mind continues to agonize. About what, you ask? One simple thing…the hair-trigger.
Agents receive so many submissions they have to utilize whatever individualized method they can to whittle down their pile (including using interns). In an idealized world, they’d completely read each and every query letter that comes across their desk and never fall behind. However, here in this world there’s a gun planted on the temple of each letter, a rejection letter loaded in its chamber, and a trigger becomes touchier as the pile grows higher. Regardless of how close to perfection my letter approaches, I will still worry about that trigger and how sensitive it can be. The majority of literary agents out there have one and I understand completely, it’s a matter of survival for them. But for those of us on the other side of that barrel, we live with the knowledge that one miss-step, one false move, could result in a snuffed out dream.
Put the genre and word count in the first paragraph instead of the last. BLAM!
Misspell a single word, or let slip a grammatical error. BLAM!
Mix tenses. BLAM!
Your word count is 105 000 and their self-imposed limit is 95K. BLAM!
Addressing the letter to Mr. Bobbie Robinson, but Bobbie is a girl. BLAM! BLAM! (You needed to be shot twice for that one).
You used a cliché. BLAM!
You failed to recognize that one element of the plot still remains vague. BLAM!
You used the wrong font and/or character size. BLAM!
They read your query on Monday, and Monday’s are always bad. BLAM!
Yes, I’m exaggerating to make a point, but really, by how much? It doesn’t really matter what their reasons are, the sensitivity of the trigger can be correlated not only to the height of their stack, but the depths of their mood. That’s why we work so hard to compose the perfect letter, and even then it can still fall short.
There is so much riding on this letter that I see now why it’s recommended by so many of those “in the know” that aspiring novelist should attend as many writers’ conferences as possible and get to know the agents representing that genre. Interact on their blogs, follow their Twitter and/or Facebook feeds, anything to link your letter to an actual person and make pulling that trigger that much more difficult.
PS. Did you know that Ian Fleming, the author known for creating the iconic James Bond 007, also wrote the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?