Order! Order!

We like order, believe it or not. Our office may look like Medusa’s latest attempt to set fashion trends, but thar be a method to our madness. It begins with what we want to see in a query, and the order in which we see them.

It’s all about ME!

I appreciate this can be somewhat challenging because most of us forget that the world doesn’t revolve around us. You may be the sun in your particular universe. But in our universe, your story is center of all that gravitational pull.

Your story is the meat to my potatoes, the cream to my Twinkie, the cute little umbrella to my margarita.

Not you.

That means that I don’t want to wade through the beginning of a query letter about how you wrote fifty-seven books, how many writer’s guilds you belong to, what the critics say about you, and the fact that you call your mother every day (though that is lovely).

It also means that I don’t want to swim upstream reading a full-on report from your independent editor, including how much they lurve your story [for Pete’s sake, they’re obligated to say nice things!], their address, phone number, website, and shoe size. Seen it – pinky swear. Except the shoe size. I made that part up.

Does the author think I’ll give the editor a ringy dingy? [the answer is no, I wouldn’t not]
Does the author believe the indie editor’s high praise will flip up my Vickie Secrets to the point where I’ll sweep the beagle off my desk in order to read their submission? [the answer is no, I would not. Besides, the beagle would probably bite me]

Give. Me. The. Meat. First.

Think logic-like

I realize that to most of you, this lament is silly. After all, of course you lead with your pitch. But I’ve had a rash of queries from authors who don’t know better.

Look at it this way: Pretend you’re trying to sell your car. A prospective customer comes over to check out your car. Now what do you do? Do you begin by regaling the customer with stories of all your carnal athletics that took place in the back seat? Ew. Do you wax poetic about how you drove to Arizona in two and a half hours with the entire football team stashed in your trunk? No.

You talk about the terrific gas mileage, show him all your service records, and you let him drive the frickin’ car.

And that’s what I’d like to do, too. Lemme drive the car. After all, that’s why you contacted me right?

Yes, you are important. After all, you are the author, and I want to know about you – especially if you have writing credits, etc. But even if you’re the Great Cosmic Muffin herself, you still need to have written something worth publishing, so don’t force me to read all the stuff that I don’t really care about yet. You’re trying to sell your manuscript, so make that your starting point.

Reel ’em in

Hooking an editor’s attention is a process, just like catching a fish. You don’t toss a stick of dynamite into the water hoping the concussion will have us floating to the surface gasping for air. Well, on second thought, maybe you do. But it’s not an effective method because sooner or later we’re gonna recover and dive for the deepest part of the pond. You want to coax us to bite your hook, and that comes with sticking on the fattest worm you can find – your story. It’s  the reason you’ve contacted me, so remember to keep things in order.

5 Responses to Order! Order!

  1. Voidwalker says:

    “Lemme drive the car”

    This is a great metaphor! I think it puts a great perspective on things. It can be easy for new writers to confuse the query letter with a resume.

    Use the letter to sell the product, not the inventor. Ya?

  2. Lynn – any of my clients at Pen2Publication would be hard pressed to find something in my reports that would be likely to be glowing enough: I am the proverbial “hard to please” person. I see it as my job to tell them what’s wrong, not what’s right. So, no, I don’t feel “obligated to say nice things” – after all, I have my reputation as the crabbit old bat to uphold! Only writers who really really want to know the truth need apply. Amazingly, there are many of them and I have been in awe of their attitude. Totally professional and wanting to improve. One day, you might come across one fo them, though I’m on the wrong side of the pond for you, SADLY. Nx

  3. Nicola, you’re quite right; indie editors aren’t obligated to say nice things. From what I’ve seen from the numerous queries I receive, there are quite a few indie editors who provide a report – or some sort of praise – after the working relationship has concluded. And this is what authors believe will be the jam in my jelly doughnut.

    You, on the other hand, would probably leave me without skin, a heart, or a brain. I really should hire you!

  4. Steve says:

    In all seriousness, if I’m looking at a car, and the seller is a mechanic (happened that way for what I’m driving now) I definitely want to hear what work he did to it, and find out at least a little about how good he is. A lot of stuff you just can’t tell from a test drive – although of course you want that as well.

    And the case of queries is probably confused by advice from *agents* suggesting at least a mention of relevant writing credentials. Of course, they are concerned with selling to a publisher. You, being part of a publisher, would have a modified agenda. But since few publishers accept unagented queries, most advice out there is on querying agents. I think the confusion is understandable.

    -Steve

  5. Steve, I’m not saying I don’t want those things. It’s just not wise to lead your query off with those things. You’re trying to sell your story, so lead with it so I’m not scrolling down through the other stuff trying to find it.

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