Query writing (part 1) – My book is like a Taylor Swift song and it´s okay

I suck at writing queries.

Big time.

I thought I was good when I wrote my first attempt. Nope. The kind people over at AbsoluteWrite told me why I needed to change almost every word of it. I did do some research before but clearly not enough…

This was last year. For a book I I ended up not querying.

Fast forward this summer – I wrote a query, corrected it based on Taryn´s suggestions and it even won her contest. (yay! And if you don´t follow Taryn´s blog, you totally should)

I post said query for feedback on several sites and got again very constructive suggestions/comments. I plugged at it again and posted back for critiquing…

One poster let me know that at some point during the query, my book sounded like a Taylor Swift song (and it wasn´t a compliment :P)

And I thought about it…for a long time. I came to the conclusion that it´s okay, for the following reasons:

  • My novel contemporary is character-driven , just like many of her songs. Plenty of things happen..Natalja has to deal with a lot of things, grow, get to know herself, open up...There are both external and internal conflicts in my novel, and emotions run high.
  •  I can feel the emotions when Taylor Swift sings (the soundtrack from Hunger Games anyone?) And I´m pretty sure I´m not the only one…

The query version that got that remark is an older one, and thanks to all the comments I received, Sara´s webinar, Christa, Ian, I have a much much stronger one right now. Well, I have two versions but both of them are better than all the previous ones.

It may still sound like a Taylor Swift song, but if I can bring out the same enthusiasm about my story than she does with her songs. I say: Yay!

Next Monday, I´ll tell you more about queries in: Query writing (part 2) – What I learned in Sara Megibow´s webinar…I´m definitely not a pro but I learned a thing or two thanks to Sara 😀

So tell me, how long does it take you to write a query?

30 Comments

  1. katyupperman says:

    I’m all for constructive criticism, but BOO to the person who said that your query is like a T-Swift song and *didn’t* mean it as a compliment. I think every story I’ve ever written is like a Taylor Swift song. I embrace it, and for exactly the reasons you listed. She packs her songs with characters and emotions, and hello… they’re all super romantic and/or angsty. So yeah, to each his own. I love a good T-Swift song, and I’d jump all over a book that reminded me of one.

    So there!

    Good luck with the query writing… If you ever want additional feedback, you’re welcome to email your query. 🙂

    • Elodie says:

      I know right? I mean okay my query still needed work at that point but still 😛 I’d be SO glad if my book is actually reminiscent of all the emotions T-Swift puts in her songs 😀

      And thank you so much for the offer, Katy!

      Hope you’re enjoying your holidays 😀

  2. Jaime Morrow says:

    I’m with Katy on this one. Whoever made the Taylor Swift comment really didn’t realize just how much of a compliment that was. I think the most recent version(s) of your query that I’ve read were really great, and you should be proud of all of the work you put into them. I’m still in avoidance mode when it comes to my own…

    Looking forward to reading about Sara Megibow’s helpful information! 🙂

    • Elodie says:

      True! and thank you very much! I don’t mind criticism and to be fair that person actually had some helpful advice but…the way it was wrapped up didn’t sit that well 😛 You’ll manage yours too, Jaime! 😀

  3. Elise Fallson says:

    Querying has been my albatross lately. My first attempt was so bad I refuse to let anyone read it, LOL! It’s good you’re getting advice and feedback, it’s the only way to improve.

    Also, don’t sweat the Taylor Swift comment. She sold over 22 million albums, just so you know. (:

    • Elodie says:

      If I can be as successful as her (or really just a 1/10), it’d be WOW! 😀 I’ve got a lot of feedback and even that poster was helpful in a way…Now I just have to also trust myself and to stop picking at it 😛

  4. Like I said on twitter, I LOVE TAYLOR SWIFT’s SONGS!! So bleh to the person who talked about it and it wasn’t a compliment!
    I suck at writing queries too. But I’m sure you’ll do great. I KNOW you’ll do great!
    Go, Elodie, go!

  5. bwtaylor75 says:

    I’m sure you’ve seen the good and the bad of posting your query letter on a site like AbsoluteWrite. Everyone will have an opinion. Who are those opinionated people? Are they published? Are they successful? Do they genuinely want to help you? The point is don’t let all the outside voices drown out yours. Only you know what’s best for your manuscript and query because you wrote it. Most agents will look at your query letter as a sample of your writing, and a reflection of your manuscript. If other writers are influencing your query, does it really reflect your manuscript and writing style? It seems like you’re giving too much weight to those commenters. Don’t lose what makes you special. Don’t lose your voice. Good luck with your query. Rely on the people you trust, research, and confidence. You can do it.

    • Elodie says:

      Thank you!

      For the most part what I’ve seen has been helpful…Sometimes it was helpful in disguise 😛

      But I’ve learned since then to pick and choose who I turn to. I have some wonderful writer friends, who are direct in their feedback, and who genuinely want to help me. Some with experience, some with less experience…

      Overall I’d say that I found this query writing journey very interesting so far. And keeping that voice and that touch in it is an exercise of its own 😀

  6. Rebecca B says:

    Hey, Taylor Swift is a good storyteller!
    I read a lot of the marketing copy for pubbed books when I was trying to write a query. Book jacket descriptions do a great job of telling you the most important parts of the story without spoiling it.
    My query did actually include a rhetorical question, which I now know is a big no-no–whoops!

    • Elodie says:

      That’s true 😀 I’ve read a lot of book jacket descriptioins as well, and that really does help…and wow your query had a rhetorical question? REBECCA! 😀 Hahahaha Anyways, it was strong enough for Suzie, so it must have been great 😀

  7. jamieayres says:

    Before I ever listened to Taylor, my husband did (I know, that’s weird, haha), and he’s like, “You have to listen to her! It sounds like she’s singing about your characters!” makes sense since I write YA. I always thought it’d be cool if Taylor and I did a collaboration project! Hey, a girl can dream;-) Taylor is a compliment for sure!!!

  8. I agree with everyone – sounds like it’s a good thing that it’s like a Taylor Swift song! I wrote so many drafts of my query. It’s tough! Based on the feedback I received during WriteOnCon, I think my current version is pretty good, but it still needs some tweaking.

    Looking forward to hearing what you learned from Sara’s webinar!

    • Elodie says:

      Ohhhh I don’t think I’ve read yours on WriteOnCon (maye have to go lurk :P) Mine needs a tad more tweaking I think but at some point I need to test it out…well after I have the feedback on my revised WiP from my beta 😀

      How is your revision going, Ghenet?

  9. I can’t imagine how anyone would think it’s BAD that a query sounded like a Taylor Swift song. I’m pretty sure my favorite YA contemps are all practically Taylor Swift songs. You should feel flattered by that comment! 🙂

  10. Colin says:

    The best querying advice I can give is *READ THE QUERY SHARK ARCHIVES!* (queryshark.blogspot.com). Janet Reid’s pointed critiques of actual queries has done more to show me what a good query looks like that a lot of other things I’ve read about querying. Not to say my querying efforts have been successful (still unpublished), but I got some good comments at last years WriteOnCon (even though it still needed a bit of tweaking). Writing queries is hard, but thanks to Janet, I approach it with a lot more confidence that I know what I’m trying to achieve.

    I guess we’ll see how true that is when I attempt to query my current WIP! 😀

    • Elodie says:

      Thanks Colin! And yes Janet Reid’s critiques of queries are really really helpful! 😀 Writing queries is an art, and we put so much effort into our books, that it definitely needs a lot of our attention as well 😀

      I’m still learning…

      Crossing my fingers for you – that WiP you’re currently working on sounds really great!

  11. EM Castellan says:

    I love “Safe and Sound”! Such a beautiful song 🙂 I’m looking forward to read what you learned at Sara’s webinar. Her rejection letter is the nicest and most helpful one I got to date…

    • Elodie says:

      😀 It is really a beautiful song! Sara’s webinar was really really helpful…She tried her best to explain to us the way her query-reading process works and what stands out in her eyes. More on this next week 😀

  12. Others have said it sooner and better, but: if Amazon sent me a YA email that said “People Who liked Taylor Swift Also Liked”, I would seriously consider instabuying the lot. People love her for a reason! She mixes romance and snark and fun really well. So, keep telling people that! See, now everyone wants to read your book! (As they should.)

  13. Ah, I would love for my book to have the same effect as Taylor Swift’s song have on teen girls! Isn’t that the goal?

    Anyway, the query is my nemesis too, and so is my 250 wds and my 150 wds. This entire process has been an exercise in wordafterwordnitpickcraziness .

    I can’t wait to read what you learned in Sara M’s webinar. She is such a wealth of knowledge.

  14. Um, there’s nothing wrong with a Taylor Swift song in my opinion. They’re fun! Anyway, the single best thing I read about querying was Elana Johnson’s book From the Query to the Call. Did I mention it’s free? She breaks it down so well that the whole process is about a gazillion times easier. (Keep in mind, I haven’t sent out queries yet, so I can’t tell you if it’s led me to success or failure.) Here’s the link (at the bottom): http://www.elanajohnson.blogspot.com/p/books.html

    • Elodie says:

      Thanks Tracey 😀

      I also think T-Swift’s songs are fun…I read Elena’s posts on querying and they helped me. So. Much.! I actually think you were the one who hinted me to them at some point 😀 so THANK YOU 😀

  15. Darn right it’s OKAY! Taylor Swift is amazing! Also, the only song on my playlist for one of my projects was You Belong To Me and I would’ve been thrilled if someone said that so you ignore that silly person!

    Okay, Alison rant over. 🙂 Anyway, yes – query writing is TOUGH. I usually go through (no lie) 100 some drafts and tweaking until I get something I’m even remotely comfortable sending to CPs. So glad you have something you’re happy with! Yay to a long journey’s end!

    • Elodie says:

      Thanks Alison 😀 That commenter was helpful (it was helpful in disguise as I like to call it) but that remark on T-Swift surprised me a little since I actually would love for my book to get people all emotional like she does with her songs…and she does it so well!

      Query writing is definitely tough, and I’m still learning. My hubby told me it’s normal, I’m just not good at summarizing…lol 😛 but it’s so much more than a summary, it’s the entry door, it’s what supposed to awaken interest, give a spark of what it is without showing the fire…:D Yes I’m getting all lyrical on this 😛

      At some point, once I know my manuscript is as good as I can make it, I’ll have to test my query and send it out. Scary!!! 😀

      How is your revision going?

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