July 11, 2010

WRITING ADVICE: Nathan Bransford 5 – Good Querying

Nathan Bransford is a West Coast agent with the New York literary agency, Curtis Brown, Ltd. For the past nine years, he has been writing a popular blog reflecting on and illuminating the publishing world. Humorous, serious and ultimately enlightening, I’ll be looking at how THE ESSENTIALS (PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU QUERY) have had an impact on my writing. I am using them with his permission and if you’d like to read his blog (which I highly recommend) go to http://blog.nathanbransford.com/.

I have had a few good responses to queries in the past, so I’m not a COMPLETE Query Loser (hey, does that sound like the name of a blog?)

I’ll post one of my queries that got a positive response and then I’ll turn you loose on the links below. There are an uncountable number of query resources out there ranging from an agent or editor’s own site to lessons and books written about commentaries.

My question is though, with all the really good resources out there, why do some people still send queries in that are incorrectly done? Apparently I’m not the only one to wonder this because several agents and editors lament that very same thing in their blogs.

Be that as it may, here’s one of my SUCCESSFUL queries:


Attached is my attempt -- my one and ONLY attempt -- to write literary SF on the order of Gene Wolfe or JG Ballard. If you want the "story" behind the story, I can prepare one. Other than that, have at it!


“PS -- At the risk of sounding like I'm slobbering all over myself...thanks again for your support in the Trial [redacted]. I appreciate it more than you'll ever know.”

Because of that query in January of 2010, I got this response:


”Friday, July 09, 2010
“Hi, Guy,
”We'd like to use your story,
‘Teaching Women to Fly’
in Stupefying Stories #1. Before we can do so, though, we want to be
certain that both we and you have a clear understanding of what this
entails. We, being Rampant Loon Media LLC, a
Minnesota corporation, want a
one-time, non-exclusive... [legalese and agreement stuff]”
Other places you can look at excellent queries (sometimes) and the process by which 
they are groomed into excellence (often) – that is besides Nathan Bransford’s site:
Queryshark (aka agent Janet Reid)
Rants and Ramblings (agent Rachel Gardener)
Miss Snark (this is no longer a “live” blog but an archive of previous work)
KT Literary Agency (blog for the whole agency)
Guide to Literary Agents (Chuck Sambuchino)
If you want to write query letters that sell, you have to work at it. 
These sites will give you some of the tools!
image: http://www.poewar.com/wp-content/uploads/2004/10/query_letter.jpg

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