Tonight, I went walking around Durham, North Carolina by myself. Let me set the stage: the abominable HB2 is still in effect, in spite of the efforts of the noble locals, and Duke is graduating. Everywhere, there’s an air of celebration and shame tied together. I leave on a plane tomorrow for Atlanta. I’ve just visited with my good friends, and no one I know is around.
So, like any sane human, I went on a solo bar crawl to do some people-watching. I grabbed my copy of Meg Wolitzer’s THE INTERESTINGS and set off from the 21C Hotel.
I’ve gotten a lot of people asking me what Gail Carriger is like. I don’t know how to answer that, because she’s a lot of things. My journey with Gail (and partner, A.B.) can only be characterized by propriety and beauty: two subjects in which I sorely lack education.
When I stepped off the plane in San Francisco, I was lost, but her partner was waiting for me. A.B. didn’t carry a sign, instead approaching me outside the terminal with a sure eye and serene smile. I gave A.B. a stiff, Alabama handshake and instantly felt a sense of imposition as I crushed delicate fingers.
Blushing from overzealous affront, I thought I might could load my bags into the trunk. When I’d finished I spun around to see A.B. waiting, robbed of a chance to be a good host by my foolery.
To: Burgeoning Author Alex From: Sunglasses and Leather Jacket Alex Subject: Be cool, Alex. You look desperate.
Hey, Alex. This is the much more sensible side of you, and we need to talk about your literary image.
I know that you’re excited about your new book coming out, and ever since last December, you haven’t been able to shut up about it. You’re doing some things that make me cringe, and frankly, you’re not impressing anyone–you come off more like a cheerleader having a Ritalin overdose. If you keep this up, everyone is going to know that you’re not that great, and it’s going to be middle school all over again.
You remember middle school, right? When the youth group leader let the other kids raid your luggage and tie a pair of your saggy briefs to the bus antenna, and they laughed at you all the way home? We don’t want that, do we?
Let’s talk. I’ve enumerated the list of your faults, and come up with an action plan.
That means I’m actively looking for some special author that needs an agent. If you’re not familiar with Pitch Wars, I suggest you go take a look at Brenda Drake’s website and get briefed. Basically, it’s a contest where agented/published authors like me choose a manuscript to critique and read, then try to get an agent for our mentees.
Self-pub or trad pub, it doesn’t matter. Everyone needs a query letter.
“Not me,” some will say. “I’m my own boss and CreateSpace doesn’t reject anyone! I don’t need your Big 5 (4… 3… 2…) Hegemony!”
Okay, cool. But what are you going to write for your book’s backmatter? What do you want to put on your cover? What do you say when you meet Adam Savage in an elevator and he asks you what your book is about?
The query letter is the mission statement of a book. You have to take it seriously, whether you’re sending it to agents or self-marketing. It’ll inform you about your differentiators, help set the visual tone and create a strong sense of your identity as an author.
You’ll need every part of a query to market your self-pub. Paragraph 1 contains your log line, paragraph 2 contains your synopsis and paragraph 3 contains your bio. You already have to write it, so why not start out right?