It’s official. I’m a fantasist. Probably not such a bad thing, come to think of it, for a writer. But I still admit to surprise.
This particular “fantasy” is a timeslip story about how I found an agent . The truth is I signed with a literary agency a while back and have only been reminded recently of the whole query angst because a writer friend is currently pitching for representation herself.
So – I was trying to remember what my own query letter was like to try to offer some tips. Next I am undertaking a rare tidy of the office, ferreting through very old MS and papers and – Geronimo : I found my pitching letter…
Cue – double take.
In the years ( yes – years) since I was signed up, I have somehow managed to convince myself that I must have written the most amazing, original and quirky query letter – surely? At the time (heaven only knows how?) I struck lucky and had four agents interested.
My advice to my friend was going to be along the lines - oh, make it stand out. Make it really quirky and original and amazing. (Mine must have been? Wasn’t it? Can’t remember?)
My letter as it turns out was not so very off the wall at all. It was much shorter than I remember. Straight, punchy and direct. It kicked off with my writing experience ( yonks as a journalist and TV broadcaster) . It built up to the fact that I had wanted to write fiction since childhood and might actually commit murder if this did not come off for me…(OK. I made that last bit up. Told you I was a fantasist - but I did manage to sound passionate rather than desperate. Fine line. )
Then I wrote just one punchy par about the book and why I felt compelled to write it. And then I said – “judge me please by my work” and did the usual. Namely I added that “ I know where you live”…..No, No. No. Fib, fibbing again.
I attached three pars and a snazzy blurb.
So there we are. If you too are pitching for an agent just now, I can only speak from this one experience. Very unscientific. But in my case, it seemed to hit the spot to keep the query letter short, punchy and passionate.
I do also remember editing and re-editing those sample chapters until I could recite them in my sleep.
Some agents used to ask writers not to make multiple submissions but I think we need to be realistic here. You could very well die waiting for representation if you stick to single subs.
So I would recommend sending out three or four pitches at a time – but do your research and ensure you comply with the exact requirements of each agency. Most seem to accept email queries these days but do check latest guidance on their websites.
The little rider I should add here is getting an agent does not guarantee a book deal – especially in this changing marketplace. But it is lovely to have a vote of confidence – so here’s wishing you the very best of luck.
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.