No Substitution

So a good friend of mine recently read my heavily revised first chapter and the cover letter I hope to send out.  She seemed genuinely pleased by my writing, and made some excellent notes on the manuscript pages. However, before we could talk about the chapter, she first wanted to talk about the cover letter. At the bottom of her marked up copy she wrote:

“This is too formal, too resume-y. Be Richard in it! He [meaning the agent] can’t hear you in this.”

I knew what she meant, but I explained there was a lot of pressure for me on the cover letters. Since my book features LGBT characters, and is not YA, a lot of the decent book agents out there have no interest in it. It’s a great story, but most agents want to be in love with the book. I understand this, it makes it easy for them to sell it, so my friend wanted me to explain who would love me book. Fortunately, she didn’t just ask this question. Rather, while sitting in an abandoned bar near the train station she pulled out a survey she had prepared, and interviewed me about my book.

The questions were pretty vague,  but I liked the exercise of being interviewed about my book. I treated it like she was a potential agent, and so I pitched her my book. What is clear to me is that I am better at pitching in person. It’s probably because I’m an actor, so it is super easy for me to show someone how excited I am about my book.

I’ve taken several days to really think about it, and I think she is very right. My cover letter is accurate, but not thrilling. So now I am going to revise it, so that any agent will hear me in it.

In addition, I’ve decided that after I tinker a bit more with the first chapter, it is time for me to just start querying. When it has gotten to the point that I can’t tell whether my original or new material is better, I think it means I am finally ready to submit. I’d need to work with an editor to take it to the next level. If no agent wants me, I can hire one, and then self-publish. Hopefully, someone will want it though!

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2 Comments

  1. tanglethis said,

    July 19, 2012 at 10:41 am

    When I was thinking about what questions to ask you, I did a quick Google for query letters of published authors. That’s what persuaded me that there needs to be a little more storytelling, a little more of your warm and funny voice, so the the agent can see from reading your letter what reading your book is going to be like.

    You’ve probably already done that–look at sample query letters–but just for kicks I thought I’d look up a couple of query letters by authors you like, if any of these were online. And what do you know, when you google “lev grossman query letter” you’re the fifth search result. LoL!

    • kyoske said,

      July 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

      I think it is funny that I am choice number 5. The only reason I can think of is that I’ve blogged about query letters, and that I have Lev Grossman’s blog on my blogroll. Random.

      I sent you a revised version, hopefully you will think it is more me.


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