Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crafting The Query Letter

On Google+ I've been in a discussion of how to cold-query an Agent when you have no sales record behind you -- and of course you can't sell fiction these days unless you have an agent, but you can't get an agent if you have no sales.

That's the same catch-22 you are in with the screenwriting biz when you start out. In fact, it's true of "getting your first job" no matter the industry.

You need to show-don't-tell what you have to offer that the person hiring you can make a PROFIT from.

The skepticism of those hiring anyone to do anything is growing because our educational system awards degrees and honors without actually equipping people to do the tasks necessary in commercial development of a product.

That's not really new, just exceptionally emphasized today. So we now have more "internships" where you work without pay, and social networking and blogging where you can gain a reputation and a following to prove you have commercial grade ideas and skills. Think of performing artists who've made a splash on YouTube.

So a while back, I did a series of 7 posts on WHAT IS AN EDITOR ending with how to tell if you're a writer or an editor. In the Screenwriting business, producers are usually your second or third tier editor.

Here's a link to the Part 7 post that has links to the previous 6 in the series:


My series on EDITING puts your mind in the editor's place so you will KNOW what to include and what to exclude when writing a query.

Having considered what the agent and editor are up against these days, you then come upon the problem of how to query an agent who does not know "who" you are (if you are anybody at all.)

Here's what I wrote on this Google+ conversation about query writing:

Appropos of the business of agenting, I found this link on a Yahoo Group of professional writers, many best selling, big name pros who are self-publishing because the mainstream publishers (for whom they may still work) are offering really bad contract terms for the e-book and audiobook. Now the business of agenting is shifting hard and fast, with more cracks showing and chunks of the monolith breaking off. Here is a PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY post that is just a vague hint of what's under the surface. Read this looking for the emotional desperation those who've invested their career building years in AGENTING must be feeling.

Naggar Agency to Offer Reprint Rights Representation

Here's a quote from that article:
While a number of literary agencies have announced plans to self-publish books by clients, others have taken the tack of offering ancillary publishing (and agenting) services. The Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency is taking the latter approach, and has launched a program to represent other agencies looking to republish their clients' backlist titles.

The new venture will be overseen by agent Jennifer Weltz, working with royalties manager Tara Hart. Speaking to this new side of the business, Weltz said it came about "organically" after she began talking to others in the industry about striking deals, with emerging e-book and POD publishers, for JVNLA's clients. Noting that there is a growing number of publishers eager to buy backlist works, Weltz said there is now a "middle world" between self-publishing and traditional publishing that remains unfamiliar to some in the business.

The agenting business is changing and shifting fast, along with publishing and writing. Reprints have become a goal in a way they haven't been for decades. If you're just starting out, keep this kind of shifting in mind as you sign contracts.

You also want to study this post which tells you what to write back once your query has been answered, "Send me ..."

http://editingcircle.blogspot.com/2010/03/ok-send-me-2-page-synopsis.html -- always remember you are opening a conversation, not ENDING one. Leave something for them to ask about.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg