Queries and All Things Proposal


The hardest writing for me is writing about my writing. That’s essentially what a query letter and a book proposal are, and I find them both excruciating.

The query is hard because I, the writer, have to encapsulate an entire book or book idea (in the case of nonfiction) in a few paragraphs. Without being too vague, too general, or too specific, too caught up in details. You get the picture why this is hard writing?

I read a number of agent blogs and there is a lot of information about queries since this is the first introduction to a writer the agent gets. It’s helpful stuff but also a bit confusing and reinforces the fact that so much of this business is subjective. What one agent likes, another gives a pass to.

Then there is the biographical information. How do you distill from your life what will say to an agent or editor that you are qualified to write this book and what’s more that you might even have some contacts that will help sell it? (I just realized I left out that last part in the query letter I was working on today)

All this is hard enough, but then there’s the proposal and the synopsis. YIKES! Now you have to tell the story succinctly but keep it interesting. Let your voice come through. Be sure to show the ending (“this is not back cover copy”). Don’t get bogged down in subplots. Or minor characters. But don’t be too general.

And what about the short pitch? It’s maybe not necessary to include, but you need it for face-to-face meetings at writers’ conferences, so why not put it in the proposal too.

As if this isn’t hard enough, the agents often say helpful things like, This may be the most important writing of your career.

Wow! All I can say is, I’m glad I know God is sovereign. If I muff a query letter, God can see to it that I receive grace from the recipient, if He so chooses. My job? Do the best I can do, then put it in God’s hands to do with as He pleases.

I just wish it weren’t quite so excruciating to write these things. 😉

Published in: on March 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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