My Writing Book of the Day: How to Query an Agent or Editor?(Kindle ebook), by Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas. Quick quote about writing the hook portion of your query letter: “What I discovered is that you cannot possibly describe an entire book in that amount of time. So don’t even try. Figure out one or two key details that grab a listener’s attention: a surprising fact, an amazing detail, an unexpected character quirk. Tap into your own passion for what you’ve written.” (I’m sharing a favorite writing book every day for a bit in case you need ideas for your holiday gift list–or want to buy a gift for yourself!)
I’m sharing the above book today because I’ve been surprised at how often I need to use (and still struggle with) the skills of condensing and pitching my manuscripts/books to people. I have an agent, so I don’t write query letters per se very much. But I really end up pitching my manuscripts to her, too. That thing where a writer just sends something “I totally did not intend to be published”–you know, the piece she wrote “just out of frustration, for laughs, and then my agent/editor said, Let’s make this a book!” Yeah, that. That does not happen to me. When I can really capture the essence of my work in an incredibly brief sentence or two in a way that shows why it’s appealing, what it can give the reader, and what makes it unique, I make my agent more excited about a manuscript. I also am learning (slowly) to use that hook when I’m at a conference and am called on to “just say a couple of words about your book.” I have been caught unprepared for this too many times. Sure, I can describe my book. But telling about my book and giving a juicy tidbit that makes the listener eager to go read it are two different things. Recently, in this situation, I said something like,
“BookSpeak is a collection of poems about books and reading, and many of the poems are written in the voices of parts of the books themselves.”
I should have said something along the lines of, “Books have a lot to say, and not just through their written’stories. BookSpeak‘s 21 poems celebrate reading and?take you?behind the scenes to share books’ fears, pet peeves, parties, and adventures.”
That’s not perfect or anything, but it’s definitely better!?Whether you use the How to Query book or some other resource, and whether you’re even writing query/cover letters regularly basis,?know that the need for understanding the hook of your book and having an elevator speech ready to go extends?well beyond just the cover letter. This has been a slow realization for me–hopefully you’ll be better prepared than I was!