Monday, June 26, 2006

Agents, Editors, and Susan Wittig Albert!

Well, I just went to the Writers' League of Texas annual Agents and Editors conference yesterday, to do a talk on agent-hunting... and what good timing, since BookEnds just published my query letter on their new (and fabulous, if you're a writer looking for an agent) blog. The whole process is a challenge -- you need to steel yourself for rejection, and keep on writing even when it gets hard.

One of the things that really hit me on Sunday is how hard it can be sometimes to find a 'hook' for what you're working on. (Or, rather, find the hook.) We get so involved in our work that it's challenging to step back and see what the essence of it is -- or how to position it so that an agent will understand, just from the query letter, why it is that she or he will want to take on your project.

A good way to do it is to look at cover copy of books similar to yours. Since your query is essentially a sales tool (just like book covers), they're a good place to start. How do book blurbs hook readers? What kind of language do they use? What aspects of the book do they focus on? Read a lot of them -- and then apply what you've learned to your own letter. It's hard at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to do it almost without thinking about it.

And on another note, it was nice to see that I'm not the only one who occasionally loses momentum; even greats like Susan Wittig Albert have off days. She was kind enough to mention me -- and Murder on the Rocks AND Poisoned Pen Letters -- on her wonderful weblog, Lifescapes. If you haven't read it yet, you're missing out on a treat. (You might also want to check out her most recent release, BLEEDING HEARTS, which is a great read... and she's got a third book in the Beatrix Potter series on the way any day now. Check it out!


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