Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't Send That Query Letter (Not Yet Anyway)

Did you just finish your first query letter for that great American novel you've been writing for the last five years? Are you excited to send it off to your list of top ten agents or publishers? I can see you now, smiling with the results of the absolute most perfect and glorious query letter of all time. You've spent hours if not days condensing your opus into a couple hundred words. You've researched your sought after agents nearly to the point of stalking. You've read your letter 700 times... Today.
And now you're ready to press that send button on your finished email. You can't wait for the partial requests to start flowing into your inbox.
Well, I'm right there with you, crossing my fingers and hoping all of your hard work is about to come to fruition. I want nothing but unimaginable success for you. Really, I do. And because of that hope, I'm asking you not to press that send button. Yeah, you heard me right.
Let me step back for a moment. I want you to look at this wonderful query letter while I try to help you not do something you'll regret. What I'm going to say might sound a little blunt but just know it is all in love. Your query letter might not be as great as you think. Not yet anyway. You've been staring at query letter bark for so long, you might be missing the forest. Or, if I wasn't trying to be so writerly, you might need some fresh eyes.
I know this because of my own mistakes. I exhausted my top ten sought after agents in my first wave of letters. As the rejections trickled in, I was forced to re-examine my approach. And do you know what? After stepping away for a month or so while waiting for the undoubtedly inevitable offers, I was able to look at my letter in a whole new light.
And it turns out, my letter wasn't as good as I thought.
What am I trying to say exactly? Well, most important is to not give up. But that's what everyone says and right now it's not what you want to hear. I propose a different approach than sending your letter to your favorite agents. It's true, you'll never be rejected if you don't start sending, but it's also true you'll never be accepted either and I understand where you're coming from. I also understand you have to send out one before you can send out two. So here's my idea. Take that brilliant query letter and send it out because I know that's what you're dying to do. Heck, it's an exciting moment and I don't want to take that from you. But here's where my plan is different. I want you to choose four or five other agents, maybe agents a little lower on your list, and send away. If they offer to look at more of your work, you're doing pretty well. If they don't, you might need to tweak your letter a bit. Save your top agents for a little farther down the road.
I promise, in time, you'll know when your letter is ready for that A-list of agents. You'll have reworked it a little more and you'll simply feel it is ready.
So that's it; that's my advice. Maybe it's not even good advice but it's advice I wish I had heard back when I started the querying process. Though, I have to admit I might not have listened. Why would I? It was the absolute most perfect and glorious query letter of all time.
Well, in hindsight, maybe it wasn't.
Good luck and I wish you all the best.
Douglas Brown

Douglas R. Brown is the author of the upcoming novel
The Light of Epertase: Legends Reborn, which will be released Aug. 1, 2011 from Rhemalda Publishing. You can visit Douglas Brown's blog or website for more information on this up and coming author at &


  1. I just love this post Doug!! We are gearing up to send some queries out ourselves and will use this great piece of advise when we do!!!

  2. i agree with his advice. trust me, i've been there.

  3. I am honored to have been a guest here and I thank you. I look forward to reading future posts. This has been fun.

  4. Good advice Douglas!! My only comment is to keep it sweet and simple.