Saturday, August 17, 2013
How Your Query is Your American Idol Audition (Or the Voice)
I sent my query out to some agents a few days ago. Ideally, everything is out of my hands. Well, except for going back and tweaking the MS (I know I shouldn't, but I can't help it!). After attending Write On Con. There are two different scenerios to the basic things that I learned:
You're query needs a hook, log lines work pretty well.
You can't give away too little
You can't give away EVERYTHING
And you can't, absolutely can't, leave the reader feeling bored. Or insulted.
The query is the gateway to your story. It sucks in a sense. I mean, you had the endurance to sit down for months to write a story and now everything depends on a pitch?
Yeah, kind off.
Which brings me to the connecting theme of this blog post. A query is your American Idol audition. My friend auditioned once, and although she is a wonderful singer, she didn't make it. But she did clue me in on who did make it, which were pretty much one of the following: Normal looking, but Drop Dead Amazing Singers who made Xtina and Beyonce look like back-up, or really interesting looking people who's voices weren't anything special, but they were.
And I find that's the issue with many people's query. Sometimes the premise (the voice) of an novel is very good--so original that you hate yourself. But the presentation of the query is so lackluster that you convince yourself that it must be like everything else on the market. Or worse, the writing of the book is just as uncompelling.
Other times books don't sound that interesting. Girl meets boy. Been there, done that. But it's a combination of a unique writing style, as well as a creative hook (something that makes the novel special to every girl meets boy and makes everything diferent-OMG). I'm talking mostly of contemporaries here. Just real people, doing real stuff. That's usually unremarkable. But for an author to present something boring in a compelling way will hold your interest is very important.
High concept is great. But I don't read plot. I read words. And if your words are shitty, you lose.
Going more so into the audition aspect, what my friend told me is that you also only have about five to ten seconds to sell your voice. Yourself. Because there are a ton of other people there. And this is very true in a query. If your pitch is off (Get it?) agents are not going to bat an eye. They have hundreds (thousands) of other submissions to choose from.
But agents get it. No true author is the same. Just like not all successful singers are that good at actually singing (cough, Taylor Swift, cough). But why do they make it? Because they're using what works to their advantage. Some people can write about paint drying and make you shed a tear. If you know you are not the best writer sell yourself with concept. Gear toward an audience that wouldn't care about it. And maybe take a writing workshop.
Do something different.
And get plenty of feedback before you query.
But even if you get rejected, hopefully that agent will supply feedback as to why. If not, don't give up hope immediately. Sometimes you do everything right in your power, but the agent wasn't feeling it or maybe they just picked on a client that has a similar concept. Maybe they don't like your voice. But that doesn't mean no one else will.
Which brings me to the next important thing after writing the novel and querying. To keep trying.