The Adventures of a Query Queen
By Sarah Pinneo
Today it is finally true. After years of work, two manuscripts, and who knows how many queries, my novel hits bookstore shelves, published by Plume, an imprint of Penguin USA.
Julia's Child is a Cinderella story about a mom who wants very much to see her product, a line of organic toddler foods, on the shelves at Whole Foods. It doesn't take a genius to notice how closely that dream resembles that of a writer who wants to see her book published.
I've been a member of SheWrites since the summer of 2009, when my adventure was just beginning. And hands down, my most satisfying SheWrites experience has been helping to critique other writers' query letters in the Query Critique v 2.0 Forum.
Even though today is my publication date, and though I have a bookstore event to prepare and a new manuscript that needs my attention, I'll still swing by the query forum to see who's feeling stuck.
Because I love queries.
I wrote my first query letter in 2005. First, I read a book on the subject, its edges quickly filling with colorful flags as I bookmarked the most crucial bits. That query, for The Ski House Cookbook was ultimately successful, and the book was published in 2007. It was very exciting to see my name on that shiny dust cover in the Cooking section. But the truth was, I had used the cookbook as procrastination. What I really wanted to write was a novel.
Although it took a lot of time and a couple of false starts, I did it. And then came the query writing again. There were a couple of books which really helped me learn the art of the query, and take the fear away. More about those in a minute.
But first I want to say this: if you're querying for an agent right this minute, even if you've racked up 100 rejections already, I'm more than a little bit nostalgic for your plight. Because you have a finished manuscript in hand, and a crystal clear mission. I understand that this might not feel like a blessing of while your desk is papered over with rejection letters. I've been there. But the query process is, at least, a common bottleneck on the way to success. That means you will find compatriots along the path. And there's a structure to it--there are rules. No other part of the publication journey is nearly as orderly.
There are lots of great query resources on the web, and I'm happy to point you in their direction. But there were a couple of books that helped me on the long slog from the slush pile to the bookstore. And now I want to pass them on. Please raise your hand if you could benefit from these:
These books are like old friends now. But I'm betting they'll be more useful to someone else. If you would like to enter yourself in the Great Query Book Giveaway, and you live in the US, please leave a comment below. On Tuesday February 6th, I will choose one comment at random. The winner will receive all three books.
Lastly, I want to say thank you. I find SheWrites to be a terrific, supportive community of women writers. If there's anything I can do to help you figure out your own query path, please don't hesitate to shoot me a note. I'm happy to help.
Sarah Pinneo is the newly minted author of Julia's Child (Plume 2012) and the co-author of The Ski House Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 2007). She edits the book publicity blog Blurb is a Verb. Visit her at www.SarahPinneo.com.