The Life of a Query Letter
By Jordan Hamessley
Authors, it's time for another session of Publishing Secrets from Jordan. This one is about that query letter you're writing or spent lots of blood, sweat, and tears making perfect. Here it is.
Once you've signed with an agent, your query letter NEVER DIES!
Want to know what I'm talking about? Let's hear from literary agent extraordinaire Lindsay Ribar!
If a query letter is good enough to have caught my eye in the first place, chances are good that I'll at least use key phrases from it, if not an edited version of the entire plot description, for my pitch letter.
Many agents I know pull from an author's query letter for the pitch letter sent to editors when a book goes on submission. But that's not the end of the life of a query. Now it's the editors turn! Before I make an acquisition, I have to convince my publisher, along with the sales and marketing team, why we should publish a book and what makes it special.
Obviously, if I love a book, I'll have a clear idea of what to say, but I always look back at the pitch letter to get inspiration for my own "pitch" to the decision makers. I always have to find comp titles for any manuscript I want to acquire. While I often come up with additional comps, the first comps I encounter are the ones from the pitch letter. Chances are, your agent came up with their initial comp titles by looking at your query.
OK. Good news. Your query got you an agent! WAHOO! Their pitch helped the editor buy the book. CONGRATS! Think we're done with your query letter? NOPE! Now it's time to convince booksellers and reviewers to pick up the book by writing catalog and sales copy! Where does that come from? The editor's own pitch to the sales and marketing team! See where I'm going with this? Your query is still alive and well. At this point, the comp titles and what makes this book stand out from the rest are featured in the copy. And what makes YOU, the author, special.
The last stop on your query's tour of the publishing industry is cover copy. By the time an editor is writing copy, you will probably only see hints of of query, but there is a good chance part of it is still alive and kicking in your book's cover/jacket copy.
So there you have it. Your query goes beyond so much more than getting the attention of an agent. It will live with your debut until it ends up on the shelf. No matter how frustrated you may get as you write and revise your query, remember to love it. It will be with you for your entire publishing debut journey.